by Matt Faley
Or, I mean, my condolences, it’s Lent?
I never know what to say around this time of year. I say this because I know many of you are like me. You look forward to Lent. What I mean by that is, you look forward to the first three days of Lent. You have big plans, your life is going to change forever because of this penance you chose and you are going to be voted Catholic of the decade by a jury of your peers by the time Holy Week comes around.
“Lord, beer me strength! I can’t take this anymore!” <– This how you actually sound three days in.
We want with everything we are for Lent to make sense. We want suffering to be easy. We want to be able to suffer well. We know there is meaning in suffering, but still, our humanity tells us to turn around and run like we are being chased at first sight of it.
Take infomercials for example.
Do we have any Snuggie owners out there? Of course we do. It was 2008’s answer to the Beanie Baby. Everyone had a Snuggie. Who could blame them? Did you see the infomercials?
They really captured the struggle of the human condition. There was a woman on the couch, just trying to enjoy her evening at home, when this terrible non-Snuggie blanket kept ruining her life. The blanket was so bad in fact she had to REACH HER HAND FROM UNDER THE BLANKET TO GRAB THE REMOTE. THE HUMANITY!
Or how about the Shake Weight? I won’t make fun of you if you have one…
You just stand there and shake it!? This is considered working out? I mean, the people in the infomercials were actually wearing workout clothes.
My personal favorite? The Potty Putter. Yes, you read that correctly. The infomercial shows a man, on the throne, with a putting green, golf ball and putter at his feet. The voice-over says this is “the amazing new toilet-time golf game that lets you practice your putting…. On the potty!” I can’t make this stuff up.
Lent does not always make sense to us. The Cross, it does not always speak to our human nature. Suffering, we could do without. So if Our Lord loves us and wants nothing more than us to be happy, authentic, joy-filled people, why does he call us directly there?
“The message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)
Lent is a beautiful time for that reason alone. If we embrace Lent, we embrace the Cross of Our Lord Jesus. Instead of looking at the Cross and saying, “You know what, Lord, thanks but no thanks,” Lent makes us stop and embrace it with open arms. It turns our gaze away from ourselves and directly to Heaven to a God who wants nothing more than to reveal to us the fullness of our humanity.
Let me show you what I mean by giving you some insight directly from the mouth of God:
“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After that, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I thirst.’” (Jn 17:25-28)
You see, Lent is a time of remembrance. It is a time to remember who God is, where we came from, where we are going and most importantly, who we are being called to be right now. It is a time to remember what it means to be human. From the Cross, Our Lord reminds us of our deepest identity. For some, he is giving it back, for others redeeming it, for many he is giving it anew. But right there, with those words, Jesus fully reveals the power of the Cross. He fully reveals our humanity, our purpose, our life in two simple words… I Thirst.
Despite what our culture tells us, our deepest identity is not our job, our relationship status, our favorite team, our sexuality, our major. Our deepest identity is that God loves us. Even reading this now, I bet that rolls right off your back. Sing it with me, y’all, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so!”
But understand this, God’s love is so much more than our human love multiplied or increased. It is a mystery. An awe-filled, unfathomable, ridiculous mystery that speaks to heart of every human with those words… I Thirst.
What is Our God trying to tell us from up on the Cross with those words?
We all understand what it means to thirst, to long. For those who know me well, you have heard me quote this John Mayer song, Something’s Missing¸in my defense. Listen to how this man aches:
I’m not alone, I wish I was
‘Cause then I’d know I was down because
I couldn’t find a friend around
To love me like they do right now
Something’s missing and I don’t know how to fix it
I’d dizzy from the shopping malls
I searched for joy but I bought it all
It doesn’t help the hunger pains
And a thirst I’d have to drown first to ever satiate.”
Something’s missing and I don’t know how to fix it
John Mayer, from what I know from Wikipedia, is only echoing the words of the Psalms that he has never read before.
“I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you.” (Ps 63)
“As the deer pants for the streams of water so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God.” (Ps. 42)
We thirst. We long. It is a part of our humanity as we live with hearts, minds and bodies longing for Heaven. And here, nailed to a cross, naked and bleeding, the God of the Universe says, “Me too. For you.”
Can you fathom such a Love?
As the burning desert yearns for water, so God yearns for our love. As a thirsty man seeks after water, God seeks after our love. As a thirsty man thinks only of water, God thinks constantly and only of us. As a thirsty man will give anything in exchange for water, so God gladly gives all he has and all he is in exchange for us; his divinity for our humanity, his holiness for our sin, his paradise for our pain.*
(drops the mic)
(picks it back up)
Let’s step back into John’s Gospel into a story we read this past Sunday.
Jesus had been walking on his way from Judea to Galilee, and had to stop in a town called Samaria. It was about noon and tired from his journey, he stops at a well. A Samaritan woman shows up at the well to draw water and she sees Jesus there. Jesus speaks first.
“Give me a drink,” he says.
Jesus, Our Lord and Savior, tells us once again that he is thirsty. This time, he asks us to satiate his thirst.
You see, Jesus is showing us that there has to be some place for our thirst and his thirst to meet. There has to be a reason, there has to be a purpose and there has to be a well for both thirsts to go. Jesus is calling our thirst into relationship with his. Jesus, above all, is calling us to prayer.
I think it’s time we change our perception of prayer. Next week, in part two of this post, I will do my best to lead your thirst and mine to the water. In the meantime, let’s pray for the courage to say yes to the Lord when he comes to us in our longing. Mary, our mother, let your yes always be ours. Hail Mary…
Matt Faley works as the Director of Young Adult Ministry for the Office of Young Adult and College Campus Ministry (YACCM). Matt is an Illinois native who served as a Catholic missionary with FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students at the University of Illinois-Chicago before coming on at the Archdiocese. Whether it be through writing, singing or speaking Matt uses this platform in hopes to re-invigorate the Gospel for college students and young adults and anyone who will listen. Learn more about Matt and his ministry at http://mattfaley.com/
*Paraphrased from Bl. Mother Teresa in “Secret Fire”