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Pope Francis before the Blessed Sacrament during his spiritual exercises Pope Francis before the Blessed Sacrament during his spiritual exercises  (Vatican Media)

Spiritual exercises: Jesus’ Thirst and Woman’s Tears

Fr José Tolentino Mendonça continues exploring the theme of thirst with Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia during their Spiritual Exercises.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

“Jesus’ thirst,” and “Tears tell thirst’s story” are the titles of the reflections given by Fr Tolentino on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.

Jesus Thirsts


On Tuesday afternoon, Fr Tolentino took inspiration for his meditation using a verse from John’s Gospel: “After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I thirst’ ” (John 19:28). There are other occurrences in John’s Gospel that help us understand Jesus’ words: 1) When Jesus is thirsty and asks the Samaritan woman for a drink (John 4:13-15); 2) The declaration “whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35); and 3) The words of Jesus spoken in the temple during the Feast of Booths: “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink” (John 7:37). Fr Tolentino observes that Jesus’ “I thirst” spoken from the cross in the present tense makes it “intense, current and uninterrupted. Jesus still says today ‘I thirst’. This helps us understand how Jesus fulfills his destiny.” His mission being fulfilled, he says, “I thirst.”

Mother Teresa experienced Jesus' thirst


Mother Teresa, he says, experienced Jesus’ thirst in a mystical experience. “In an almost physical way she felt Jesus’ thirst calling her to give her life in service to the thirst of the poor and rejected, to the poorest of the poor.” The gift given to us to satiate our thirst is the Holy Spirit, Father Tolentino reminds us. “We are called to live even suffering, persecution, illness, and joyfully. We are called to live every situation with lively hope. Why? Because the Holy Spirit, God’s strength, wind, breeze, breath, is in us.”

Women open the Gospels to us


The protagonists for Fr Tolentino’s Wednesday morning meditation are the many women that populate Luke’s Gospel. “The women in the Gospel prefer to express themselves with gestures. Their faith seeks comfort through touch—tangible, emotional, disarming--rather than through abstraction,” he explains. Commenting on Luke’s description of those following Jesus, Fr Tolentino points out that the way women accompanied the Lord was different than their male counterparts. “The women ‘were with’ Jesus exactly in the same way as the Twelve. They made his destiny their own destiny. But the text adds one thing regarding only them: “they were serving Jesus.” The women’s reaction is profoundly evangelical. They never ask Jesus the questions that the disciples ask him such as “Lord, will only a few people be saved” (Luke 13:23)? Or “Lord, what must I do to inherit eternal life (Luke 10:25)? Their declarations are concrete such as, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed” (Luke 11:27).

Women’s faith


With women, there is a “ripple of reality that intervenes in order to shape faith. In this way it does not remain a prisoner—as often happens to our faith—rationalistic, lived mechanically according to doctrine or ritual.” It is because they are in touch with daily life that they give “perfume to the faith.” The women in Luke’s Gospel—the widow of Naim, the “sinner,” the women of Jerusalem—also cry notes Fr Tolentino. St Gregory Nanzianzen describes these tears as a baptism—which many other saints have experienced. Fr Tolentino then concludes his meditation with the image of the woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. What this woman gave thus “serves Jesus as the litmus text” for what the Pharisee “refused to give.” “It is this unheard of hospitality which Jesus wants to praise—that thirst, expressed in tears—which is our turn to learn."

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21 February 2018, 11:58