On Spiritual Thirst


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(Author’s note: this is the first in a Lenten series of poems based on some of the 7 last words of Our Lord. I wrote them back in California, when I still had a Buick and a large savings account.)

John 4:13-14  (NIV) (To the woman at the well–)  Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

“I Thirst” (John 19:29. Read Mark 10:17-22)

So human, so natural:
all he wanted was to live forever..1
No doubt he heard of Jesus’ taking children in his arms, blessing them,
saying the forever kingdom is received like a child accepting His embrace.
Perhaps he thirsted for the simplicity, the love, of an eternal Jordan River
flowing through a flowering meadow right in his crowded secular city.
Perhaps he was sick of himself being stuck on the stuff he had,
and truly wanted God.
(Or maybe he only wanted God to be like a Madonna on the dash of a Mercedes.,
promising thriving and surviving,)
Money he had, but goodness, too: he kept the law, since a lad,
and maybe loved God and neighbor better than you or I,
even used his wealth to perform religious duties.
He was a good man, but Jesus sees into his heart:
he clung to, he worshiped, his goodness and his goods.
Jesus looks at him with love, and his love gets tough and radical.2
He tells him to sell all he has,
and trade it all for treasure in heaven,
by giving the money to the poor, and “come, follow me.”
But the “rich young ruler” is ruled by the here and now,
and trudges sadly off.

So it is with us.
We hunger and thirst for the eternal,
the Father’s embrace, the blessing,
the love that will not let us go.
But we don’t want to “let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also.”3 My Buick is a gift I prize,
and my annuities may not answer my emptiness today,
but they give me insurance for tomorrow.
The rich young ruler is in me, I feel his sorrow,
yet see the loving look of him who later cried “I thirst,”
lovingly taking all dryness into himself,
haunting me to hunger and thirst and follow forward
towards the kingdom without end. HPK

  1. See Mark 10:13-16  2. “Radical” comes from “radix,” Latin for “root.” Jesus gets to the roots of things. 3. From a famous hymn by Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

To hunger and thirst for knowledge is a good thing, Proverbs says, if coupled with wisdom. Today, many PhD pursuers are only coupling their apparent thirst for knowledge with a desire for salary advancement or promotion—the single minded curiosity and passion for TRUTH that used to mark a PhD are seldom there. I believe there’s a connection between searching for Truth and spiritual thirst: the mind wants both.
(See John 7:17) Truth is food for the soul.

Remember the famous words of St. Augustine, You have made us for yourself. Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Or of Moses, (Deut. 4:29) – But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. Or Jesus: Ask and it shall be given to you, seek, and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matt. 7: 7) What will you find? Something more priceless than diamonds or gold, as a popular worship song puts it. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matt. 13: 44)  Or from the Beatitudes: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matt. 5: 6)

About a hundred years ago two Germans (or Alsatian and Swiss/Germans) named Albert had a similar passion for truth. Albert Einstein, the father of modern relativity theory,  earned a PhD from the University of Zurich. Albert Schweitzer, son of a Lutheran pastor, became a renown organist and authority on the music of Back. He had earned doctorates in philosophy and theology, and published the famous Quest for the Historical Jesus before earning an MD degree in his 50’s and becoming a medical missionary in W. Africa. He ends his book with: “He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfil for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.” (License: Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed))

  1. S. Remember, FAITH MATTERS! If yours is lacking or weak, ask the Crucified and Risen One to come into your life, forgive your sins, and give faith to you or strengthen it, strengthen you, enabling you to “take up your cross and follow” Him, and live a life of discipleship, meaning, love and joy, shalom. (The witness of this oh-so-imperfect, but forgiven, octogenarian!) You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free! (John 8; 32)