"After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now ccomplished, said to tu fulfill the scriptures: I thirst..." [Jn 19:28]
RENEWAL AND REVELATION
Renewal means re-creation, a regained newness and vitality, a return to the source of life and growth. Throughout the Scriptures this gift of renewal has been symbolized by water: from the waters over which the Spirit moved at creation, to the waters from the rock in Israel's desert wanderings, to the imagery of purification, Iife, fruitfulness and restoration of the prophets, to the living waters .of the Spirit of Jesus and to the invitation to drink of the river of life in the Heavenly City of the Apocalypse.
From Genesis to the New Jerusalem then, the gift of living waters has signified and revealed the work of renewal accomplished in the eternal priesthood of Him who "makes all things new" (Rev 21 :5). From God's point of view, renewal is a giving, a "pouring out"; from ours it is a thirst, a deeper entering into the trinitarian life which is the source of the living waters, into that which St. Paul calls "the mystery" (Rm 16:25) of God's act of renewal in Jesus, which is the font of our priestly existence.
The core of this mystery of renewal, the crossing point where man's thirst and God's outpouring meet, is precisely in the cross of Jesus. The depths of this mystery found their great utterance in Jesus' cry of thirst, in His "Sitio." Beneath that thirst lies the whole of revelation:
Jesus is the supreme expression of God's thirst for man, and of man's thirst for God: God in Jesus thirsts to satiate, Jesus in man thirsts to be satiated with the Spirit who is Love.
God thirsts for man to thirst for Him. In that mutual thirst are seen the depth of God's desire for our love and the depth of our need for His love.
God's love and thirst for man led Him to become so completely one with us, as to become poor with our poverty so to enrich us, to take on our suffering as to heal us, to cry with our own thirst so to satiate us.
If God's thirst has led Him to become one with man, it is so that men might be one with God and with each other. Man satisfies his own thirst only in satisfying God's and in allowing God to use him to satisfy the thirst of his brothers.
Our ideal as co-workers therefore is to thirst for Him who thirsts for us, and to thirst ever more deeply for the living waters of our priestly anointing, to thirst with Him by taking upon ourselves the thirst of our people in whom He himself continues to thirst, and together with him satiate that thirst by allowing Him to relive in us His self-emptying love of communion with the Father and service to man, sharing the work of Him who came to satiate both the divine and human thirst by wedding man to God and God to man.
To say that God thirsts is perhaps the most concrete and at the same time the most eloquent way of saying that He is Love. To say God thirsts is to have said all, to know God thirsts is to know all. It is enough to point to the thirsting Jesus, the Jesus of any Calvary. God's love is His thirst: His thirst for man, and His thirst in man. And so until the parousia, Love has but one name, but one expression: "Sitio ...I thirst."
CALCUTTA: ALL FIND THEIR HOME IN YOU
"You shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail, and your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt...” (Is 58:11). The waters of restoration which point to a God "rich in mercy'” (Eph 2:4) point also to the poverty of our human condition (Ps 42/143), (Is 44:3/49:10), (Ez 36:24/47:1). Our thirst witnesses to our desert, our need for renewal tells of the “ancient ruins'” of our earthly city, our Calcutta.
All the world is that Calcutta: symbol of the fallen Jerusalem of our human nature in which all, regardless of rank or riches, "find their home" (Ps 86). The streets of Calcutta lead to everyman's door, and the very pain, the very ruins of our Calcutta of the heart witness to a glory which once was and ought to be: "We were made for higher things..." (MT). What was once our fullness has become our great emptiness: and this is our thirst, this our poverty. Our conception of poverty and the poor must be broadened therefore to make room for the entire human family. The "poorest of the poor” are not solely the materially poor, but each and all of God's children who hunger and thirst for Him in so many ways, though often without knowing for what they thirst, or that it is in fact Jesus himself who thirsts in them. Calcutta, then, is everywhere. ..for wherever there is humanity there is poverty, for the two are one. One also is the Jesus who is ever poor in all humanity and in each individual, so that wherever we are, whomever we are with, it is there that Jesus continues His hidden Passion in our midst, and there that we are called to recognize and serve Him. "Today, once more, when Jesus comes amongst His own, His own do not know Him. He comes in the rotten bodies of our poor, He comes even in the rich choked by their own riches. He comes in the loneliness of their hearts, and when there is no one to love them. Jesus comes to you and me and often -very, very often -we pass Him by" (MT).
And so the “poorest of the poor” are first of all the parish or people entrusted to our pastoral care, all brother priests who with us are but “vessels of clay,” and all those who are:
Hungry: only for food, but especially for the Word of God and the God of the Word.
Thirsty: not only for drink, but for the living waters, thirsty for God, for His truth, His love, His peace.
Naked: not only for clothing, but for their dignity as children of God.
Homeless: not only for material shelter, but especially for the shelter of an understanding heart, for the "shelter of God's wings."
Sick, crippled, dying:not only physically, but especially spiritually.
Our poverty is our pain, our thirst inquietude; but that poverty and thirst point not only to our misery but also to the dignity of man's vocation, to Him who alone can fill us, and to the importance of our ministry in transforming that pain into seeds of resurrection, that poverty into a foretaste of those ”things which eye has not seen nor ear heard" (1 Cor 2:9).
And so the renewal of our priesthood, of our poverty, springs from our penetration of Jesus' Sitio so as to be penetrated by His satiating, thirsting ''as a dry, weary land without water" (Ps 62) for the living waters of restoration, becoming channels, carriers of that water for the Jesus who thirsts in our people: "for I will pour water on the thirsting land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon you, and you shall spring up like grass amid waters, like willows by flowing streams" (Is 44:3).