Thought for the day
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
- Matthew 7:7-8
Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept – Day 34 “FIFTH WORD ON THE CROSS: I THIRST”
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev.B.J Moses Shanthi Kumar, Presbyter, CSI Medak Diocese gives a meditation “FIFTH WORD ON THE CROSS: I THIRST”
Lenten Meditations- Day 34 (for 13th April 2019)
“FIFTH WORD ON THE CROSS: I THIRST”
Selected Texts: John 19: 28-29 | Psalm 42:1 | Romans 8:18-25
Jesus’ cry for thirst echoes the cry of many human beings, and all creatures of the earth as they do not have access to safe drinking water. Water is one of the precious gifts of God. It is a basic human need and a basic human right; every human being should have access to safe drinking water. But today water has become a commodity; God’s precious gift is sold as bottled water. In spite of having many natural resources and various water bodies in India, there are millions of people who are crying “I Thirst.” The cry of the thirsty is not just the cry of human beings but also the cry of all kinds of living creatures. Many wild animals are coming out of their habitats into villages where human beings are living, as they do not have water to drink. Therefore, in this grave situation, the fifth word of Jesus from the cross, “I Thirst” represents the cry of all the living creatures who are deprived of their basic right, clean drinking water. Interestingly in the Gospel of John, Jesus not only asks for water but he also gives living water. (John 7:38).
In the gospel according to St. John, Jesus is portrayed as both divine and human; as a divine being Jesus has the power to give or take his life. (John 10:18) The cry of Jesus, “I Thirst” reminds us to affirm life. As a human being, Jesus experienced physical and mental pain caused by flogging, mocking, and carrying the cross until Golgotha, where he was left to die. Jesus responds to the urgent need of his body, severe thirst. However, instead of giving him water the soldiers offer Jesus sour wine. There are various explanations as to why Jesus was given sour wine. It is held that this was the common person’s (Soldiers) drink, it was given to ease pain and some others opined that it was cheaper than regular wine. Some other scholars have suggested that the sour wine mixed with gall is given in fulfillment of Scripture (Psalm 69: 21; Ps 42:2; Ps: 63:1). But a close examination of the passage indicates that the wine did not contain gall. However, the sour wine was given using a long pole. The drink was a hyssop sponge (John 19:29). John Nolland comments, “The third-century B.C. Antigonus Carystus reports the use of sponge tied to poles as the means of bringing up water.” So the point is when Jesus was asking for water he was given sour wine. Jesus was denied a basic right, access to drinking water.
In the name of development, people are bombarded with big budget projects and denied their basic necessities. For the sake of constructing dams, Dalits, adivasis and tribals are alienated from their lands and are deprived of their livelihood. For the sake of constructing express ways several thousand hectares are forcefully taken from them. Rivers are sold or privatized so as to benefit the transnational beverage, mining and steel industries. Jesus’ cry for thirst reminds us to affirm life in the midst of such devastating situations. Jesus affirms life by asking for water.
Water is given prominence in the Bible because it is both a sign of the reign of God and source of life. Water cleanses and refreshes; water drowns and kills. In the Protestant tradition, water is used in both the sacraments, namely Baptism and Eucharist.
The thirst of Jesus is the thirst for justice, peace and integration of all creation; Jesus’ cry encourages us to show compassion, preserve natural resources and protect nature. Oceans, lakes, rivers and seas are polluted and are used for illegal constructions. One such lake in Chikkalsandra, Bengaluru which had life and which could be rejuvenated is currently being used for creating sewage plant. Another example of pollution is the Coca Cola factory in Plachimada, Kerala which has been closed for the past 14 years, yet its impact continues to be felt even today. The people of that village have to walk five kilometers every day to fetch drinking water from the nearby village. This factory has created thirst in India and is directly responsible for the loss of livelihood and even hunger of thousands of people across India. The people are denied their basic right to life as they are deprived of safe drinking water. Jesus’ thirst awakens us to strive for justice, peace, and integration of all creation as the whole creation is groaning in labor pains. (Romans 8: 22).
The cry of Jesus from the cross expresses humanity’s longing for God. As Augustine of Hippo says, “Thou has made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” As the Psalmist prays “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God,” (Psalm 42:1) and without God life is like “a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1). However, the cry of Jesus not only expresses humanity’s longing for God but it also expresses God’s longing for us.
The water crisis that we are experiencing due to pollution, over-use, misuse and exploitation of natural resources, the cry of Jesus from the cross is a call to protest, protect, preserve and prudently love nature. It is a call to protest against the denial of basic rights, protect natural resources, preserve creatures and creation from exploitation, prudently love nature and strive for justice peace and integration of all creation.
Hymn (His are the thousand sparkling rills)
O Love most patient, give me grace;
Make all my soul a thirst for Thee;
That parched dry lip, that fading face,
That thirst, were all “for me”.
Gracious God, we thank you for your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ who died on the cross so that we might have life. Help us to be sensitive to the needs of the people and all creation. Challenge us to use our natural resources sensibly and enable us to be committed to the well-being of all creation. May we continue to long for Thee and strive for justice, peace and integration of all creation; for we pray in Jesus’ name, who is the source of living waters. Amen.
Rev. B.J. Moses Shanthi Kumar
CSI Medak Diocese