Written by: Liz Ivkovich
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The image of “I thirst” that Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity (MC) have printed beside the crucifix located in Nirmal Hriday, her first home in Kolkata has been imprinted on my brain for a long time. In a brash “I’m 22 and I care!” moment I had the same phrase tattooed on my arm, prompting many interesting discussions.
“Look upon Jesus nailed to the Cross, dying, and listen to his faint voice: ‘I thirst’ (Jn 19:28). Today, Christ repeats his request and relives the torments of his Passion in the poorest of our brothers and sisters.” (John Paul II, quoted in Come Be My Light pg 319)
“’I thirst,’ Jesus said on the cross when Jesus was deprived of every consolation, dying in absolute Poverty, left alone, despised and broken in body and soul. He spoke of His thirst- not for water- but for love, for sacrifice…
For me it is so clear- everything in MC exists only to satiate Jesus. His words on the wall of every MC chapel, they are not from the past only, but alive here and now, spoken to you… “I thirst” is something much deeper than just Jesus saying “I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you- you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you.” (letters of Mother Teresa pgs 41- 42 Come Be My Light)
In the long journey I am still taking from a privileged understanding of a white, blue-eyed, brown haired Christ who lives in my heart, to the Christ who identifies with the marginalized in society, I sometimes feel a little bit lost. “Blessed are those who are poor for theirs is the Kingdom of God” and “What you did to the least of these you did to Me.” tell me that there is something that I might be missing as a person of resource. I celebrate the upside down values of the Kingdom of God, where those who are last are first, and the poor and forgotten are seated in places of honor at the table. I celebrate the abiding presence of Christ among the poor, the Christ who suffers with those who suffer.
When I locate myself in my own theology I find that I am the rich woman keeping the Lazaruses of the world at the gate in rags. In a literal way the clothes I wear, my tax dollars, my occasional Walmart purchase and my consumption of fossil fuels deny others sustainable wages and access to basic environmental needs like water, clean air and healthy food. So as I celebrate Christ among the poor, what does that mean for me- the unpoor, the privileged?
This Advent, I have been waiting not for Christmas but for Epiphany. At Christmas time Jesus came to a poor Jewish couple in the ancient equivalent of a Motel Six garage. But, Epiphany, Epiphany is when Jesus appeared to the wealthy Gentiles, of which I am one. Epiphany reminds me that while Jesus comes and identifies with the poor and the marginalized, he is also available to the elite, to the resourced, to the educated who seek him.
Photo: “Thirst” by “Lanier67″ from Flickr (Used under Creative Commons license)