Man Thirsts for God
Wednesday General Audience from April 25th
1. Psalm 62, on which we will reflect today, is the Psalm of mystical love, which celebrates total adherence to God, beginning with an almost physical longing until it reaches its fullness in an intimate and everlasting embrace. Prayer becomes desire, thirst and hunger, because it involves the soul and body.
As St. Teresa of Avila writes, "I think thirst expresses a desire for something, but the desire is so intense that we die if we are deprived of it" (Way of Perfection, c. XXI). The liturgy proposes to us the two first strophes of the Psalm which are centered, precisely, on the symbols of thirst and hunger, while the third strophe presents the dark horizon of the divine judgment on evil, which contrasts with the luminosity and gentleness of the rest of the Psalm.
2. We now begin our meditation with the first verse, that of God's thirst (see verses 2-4). It is dawn, the sun is rising in the clear sky of the Holy Land and the man of prayer begins his day going to the temple to seek the light of God. He has an almost instinctive need for that meeting with the Lord, seemingly a "physical" [need]. As the arid earth is dead, so long as it is not irrigated by rain, and as the cracks of the earth are like a thirsty and parched mouth, so does the faithful long for God, in order to be filled by Him and so be able to exist in communion with Him.
The prophet Jeremiah had already proclaimed: the Lord is "the Source of living waters," and had reproached the people for having "hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water" (2:13). Jesus Himself would cry out in a loud voice: "If any one thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me" (John 7:37-38). At high noon on a sunny and silent day, He promised the Samaritan woman: "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14).
3. The prayer of Psalm 62 is linked, by this subject, with the song of another wonderful Psalm, the 41st: "Like the deer panting for the streams of water, so my soul yearns for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (verses 2-3). Now, in Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, "the soul" is expressed with the term "nefesh," which in some texts designates the "throat" and in many others is extended to indicate the whole being of the person. Appreciated in these dimensions, the word helps to understand how essential and profound is the need for God; without Him breath and life itself come to naught. Because of this, the Psalmist goes so far as to put physical existence itself in second place, if it means he will be deprived of union with God: "Your grace is worth more than life" (Psalm 62:4). Also, Psalm 72 repeats to the Lord: "There is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. ... But for me it is good to be near God" (verses 25-28).
4. After the lyrics on thirst, the words of the Psalmist intone the song of hunger (see Psalm 62:6-9). Perhaps, with the images of the "great banquet" and satiety, the man of prayer remembers one of the sacrifices, which were celebrated in the temple of Zion: the so-called [sacrifice] "of communion," in other words a sacred banquet in which the faithful ate the flesh of the immolated victims. Another fundamental need of life is used here as a symbol of communion with God: Hunger is satiated when the divine Word is heard and the Lord is found. In fact, "man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3; see Matthew 4:4). And at this point the thoughts of the Christian turn to that banquet that Christ prepared the last evening of His earthly life, whose profound value he had already explained in his discourse at Capernaum: "My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him" (John 6:55-56).
5. Through the mystical food of communion with God "the soul is clasped" to Him, as the Psalmist declares. Once again, the word "soul" evokes the whole human being. It is not accidental that there is reference to an embrace, to an almost physical clasping: Now God and man are in full communion and from the lips of the creature there cannot but flow joyful and grateful praise. Even when undergoing the dark night, we feel protected by the wings of God, as the ark of the covenant was covered by the wings of the cherubim. And now the ecstatic expression of joy bursts forth: "I exult with joy in the shadow of your wings." Fear vanishes, the embrace does not clasp the void but God Himself, our hand is gripped by the force of His right [hand] (see Psalm 62:8-9).
6. When reading this Psalm in light of the paschal mystery, the thirst and hunger that impel us toward God, find their fulfillment in the crucified and risen Christ, from whom we receive, through the gift of the Spirit and the Sacraments, the new life and the nourishment that sustains it.
St. John Chrysostom reminds us of this when, commenting on the Johannine observation: from the side "blood and water flowed" (see John 19:34), he affirms: "That blood and that water are symbols of the Baptism and of the Mysteries," namely, the Eucharist. And he concludes: "See how Christ unites the spouse to himself? See with what food he nourishes all of us? It is from the same food that we were formed and are nourished. Indeed, as the woman feeds the one she has generated with her own blood and milk, so Christ also continually feeds, the one he himself has generated, with his own blood" (Homily III Addressed to Neophytes, 16-19 passim: SC 50 bis, 160-162).
[Translation by ZENIT]
For past Papal Pronouncements, see THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS Archives
April 29, 2001
volume 12, no. 119
THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS