by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM May 22, 2022
In many years of befriending plants, I’ve learned something about thirst. People bring me ivy, African violets, spider plants and more, all seeming to be on life support and beyond resuscitation. I’ve learned not to despair over withered stems or drooping leaves, because as long as there’s even the tiniest bit of green, there is hope. Sometimes all that’s really needed is a long, cool drink, and the result of that action is a dramatic transformation. Within an hour, neglected stems resurrect and stand up straight. It seems that all sentient beings have thirst and need to notice and tend to that thirst.
We’ve learned that we can endure longer without food than we can without water. But here’s the thing: we sometimes don’t recognize spiritual thirst and instead look for other ways to compensate for our feelings of incompletion or emptiness or a general unsettledness, a feeling that there’s something beyond our searching. What is often underneath these feelings is thirst, longing, a desire we’re not fully able to articulate.
“I thirst” (John 19:28) was among the last words Jesus uttered from the cross. I see a parallel as I’m accompanied and as I accompany others in spiritual direction or in retreat ministry. Among the questions I ask myself and others: What is your deepest desire? What is it that you long for? We’re really asking: what do you thirst for? These are questions that are at the heart of each of us, questions that form and influence our choices and our way of acting in this world. Questions which, if courageously explored, reveal our own deep desire and our profound longing.
Recently, a Sister of St. Joseph informed me of the death of Msgr. Peter V. Kain of the Diocese of Brooklyn, NY. I knew him slightly as he was often the priest celebrant during guided retreats I offered at St. Joseph Villa in Hampton Bays, NY during the summer. Msgr. Kain’s memorial card was enclosed with her note. When I turned the card over, I gasped. This was the quote Msgr. Kain had chosen:
“To come to the living water of Christ,
you need no merit.
All you need is thirst.”
“All you need is thirst.”
Do you hear echoes of Mary Oliver’s wondrous poem, “Wild Geese”?
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”
“To come to the living water of Christ, you need no merit. All you need is thirst.”
The doors are open. The welcome is waiting. The water is flowing. What a consolation for us–to know that, to approach the Holy One, we don’t have to prove our worth, we don’t have to come prepared with a list of reasons affirming we’re deserving of a place near that loving heart. No, all we need is thirst. Desire. Longing.
So what is your thirst? Could it be a sense that you are on the right path? That your life bring blessing to the Earth? That your prayer become more engaged and inclusive? That your time in this world make a difference for good? That your relationship with the Holy One deepen and grow?
Whatever you’re thirsting for, take a deep breath and enter into the Takeaway right now.
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Place in front of yourself a glass or bowl filled with water.
Take a long, slow sip. Savor the water.
Reflect on what it is that you’re thirsting for.
Tell the Holy One about your thirst.
Offer a prayer of trust that your longing, whatever it is, will be fulfilled.
Featured Image: Kerem Karaarslan, Unsplash
My weeks of guided and directed retreats are beginning May 26 and will continue through November.
May 26 – June 2: Please hold in your prayer all who will be part of a directed retreat at Gonzaga/Eastern Point Retreat House, Gloucester, MA. I’ll be one of the guest directors for this retreat. Thank you!
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