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 (vaticannnews)
“Jesus’ thirst,” and “Tears tell thirst’s story!” are the titles of the reflections given by Fr. Tolentino on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
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 who 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).
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.”
THIS PRIEST CLIMBS A STEEP CLIFF EVERY DAY TO GET TO CHURCH
Story by Agnès Pinard Legry and Daniel Esparza | Feb 21, 2018 for Aleteia (This article originally appeared in the French edition of Aleteia and is translated and adapted here for an English-speaking audience.
Faith moves mountains … in more than one way.
“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord and stand in the holy place? The one with pure heart and innocent hands” (Psalm 23). One might dare to say that Haylesilassie Kahsay, an Ethiopian Coptic priest, is one of them.
In the mountains of Gheralta, in northern Ethiopia, Father Kahsay walks for two hours every day and then climbs a cliff to reach the Abuna Yemata Guh, a church carved into the side of the cliff, adorned with colorful frescoes and two full domes.
It is customary to make the ascent into the church barefoot and with no ropes. The local Christian tradition claims the “Nine Saints” (the original group of missionaries from the 5th century who fostered the growth of Christianity in what is now Ethiopia) protect those who climb these cliffs.
The Abuna Yemata Guh church was carved in the cliff by St. Abuna Yemata, one of the Nine Saints himself, in the 6th century, when he arrived in the region from Syria. Some historians, though, claim some of the Nine Saints might have arrived in the region from either Constantinople or Rome. (CLICK ON Abuna Yemata Guh for spectacular photos. Abuna means Father).
Father Haylesilassie Kahsay’s daily life is all about work and prayer. He gets up at dawn and works at his house until 6 o’clock in the morning. After eating, he starts his two-hour walk to get to the church.
That’s when the climbing begins. It includes a 10-meter fully vertical section. “I do not get afraid when I climb to the church because I climb every day. It is very difficult, but I find it manageable,” said Fr. Kahsay to the BBC.
Once he gets to the church, he spends his time in prayer and study. He devotes most of his time to the study of old books. “I am happy reading my book for the whole day. Because it is very quiet here, there really isn’t anyone to talk to. You communicate with God and share your secrets with him. And then your mind becomes free and happy.”
For centuries, the priests who came here to care for this church have also been buried in it. But none of them has ever died, tripped, or had an accident during the ascent. “The nine saints who live in these mountains have kept them safe,” smiles Father Kahsay.