You can let some tension go as you breathe out and imagine you are giving this to God
The reflective content of this session has been edited based on Chapter 5 of Fr James Martin’s book, Seven Last Words. Used with permission from HarperOne.
- As you come into the presence of God today, notice how you are in your body. Are you warm, cold? Are you comfortable, or not? Relaxed, tense? Pay attention to your feet in contact with the ground, and what they are wearing...work your way from there up to your shoulders, noticing sensations as you go...do the same with your fingers, hands, arms, up to the shoulders...often we carry tension in the shoulders...if you notice any, let some of it go...move to the head and the facial muscles...if there is tension there, let some of it go...around the eyes, the mouth, the jaw...you can let some tension go as you breathe out and imagine you are giving this to God, letting go of it into God. Is there anything your body wants to say to you today?
Jesus pulled muscles, got headaches, felt sick to his stomach, came down with the flu and maybe even sprained an ankle or two
- Jesus had a body. Let me repeat, Jesus had a body. Quite a few people have a difficult time accepting Jesus’s humanity. Some of us focus almost exclusively on stories that seem to highlight his divine nature – the Son of God who went around healing the sick, raising people from the dead, stilling storms, all the kinds of miracles that people tend to associate with his divine power.
- Let’s be clear again: Jesus was born, he lived and he died. The child called Yeshua – his name in Aramaic – entered the world as helpless as any newborn and just as dependent on his parents. He needed to be nursed, held, fed, burped, and changed.
- Jesus had a body. We know that Jesus got tired from time to time. In one Gospel passage he falls asleep in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus pulled muscles, got headaches, felt sick to his stomach, came down with the flu and maybe even sprained an ankle or two. Like all of us, Jesus sweated and sneezed and scratched. Everything proper to the human body, he experienced – except sin. These bodily experiences include hunger and, as we hear in today’s passage from the Gospel of Mark as he is on the cross, thirst.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.
Jesus understands what you are going through physically
- Think of the thirstiest you’ve ever been. Maybe you were running a race on a humid summer morning, or you were walking on the street on one blisteringly hot afternoon, or you were in the hospital one night and the nurse forgot to bring you ice chips. Remember how good that first drink of water felt. You felt that you couldn’t go a moment longer, and when that liquid finally coursed down your throat, it was so glorious, so satisfying, such a relief.
- Crucifixion was one of the most agonizing ways to die. In the blazing hot sun of Judea, Jesus would have thirsted, because he had a body.
- Everyone doing this retreat has some physical burden that represents a cross in their lives. Perhaps it’s something very small, like a cold. Perhaps it’s something bigger, like a chronic illness that saps your energy. Perhaps it’s something even bigger than that, like struggling with a life-threatening disease. Particularly when the cross is a big one, God can feel far away. And we wonder, “Does God even care?” But Jesus understands what you are going through physically. God had a body. In fact, God has a body, because Christ is risen, really and truly.
- The Risen Christ carries within himself the experiences of his humanity, and that includes suffering. Remember that in one of his first appearances after the Resurrection he showed the disciples his wounds. As Jesus says to the apostle Thomas after the Resurrection, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
Talk to God
God desires a relationship with you
- So when you pray, you are praying not simply to someone who understands you because he is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-compassionate. You’re also praying to someone who understands you because he went through what you are going through.
- For many people in the world physical thirst is a daily experience. Clean water is not the lot of everyone. Since we know that the Body of Christ is all of us, all of our brothers and sisters, you can say that Jesus’s Body is going thirsty right now, and suffering. So if you are sad about Jesus’s Body having thirsted on the cross two thousand years ago, and even shed a tear, shed a tear for the members of his Body who are thirsting right now. Shed a tear for those who suffer bodily today – through thirst or hunger or nakedness or imprisonment, torture or famine or assault or abuse. Shed a tear and try to do something about it. Why not let that sorry move you to action? After all, this is one way that God moves us to act. What could you do to help those thirsting?
- As this session comes to a close, remember that God wants you to pray to him. God desires a relationship with you. So much so that God came down to earth and suffered physically for you. That’s one reason God comes to us – to help us be in a relationship with him. God wants that so much. God, you could say, thirsts for it. So, talk to God now about all you have encountered in this session, and rejoice in your relationship with Him.