Obey your THIRST

As I was walking through the streets of Manhattan one evening, my eye caught a particular billboard amid the thousands of other advertisements that bombarded my contemplative senses and pleaded for my attention: “Obey your thirst.” It’s a slogan I’ve heard or read at least a thousand times, but this time it lent itself to more than just trying to sell a soft drink. My mind quickly drifted to the theological understanding of ‘obedience’ and then of ‘thirst.’ What is my thirst? Who is my THIRST? What is obedience in this sense? Do I ‘obey’ this Thirst?

In the vow of obedience, religious offer the full surrender of their own will as a sacrifice of their very lives to God. The Church proclaims through vowed obedience, the religious is “united permanently and securely to God’s Salvific will” (Perfectae Caritas, Vatican II). This is the “thirst” of the religious.

Our Spiritual Father and Founder, John Cardinal O’Connor would say, “One obeys out of ‘mad-love’ for Christ…” Obedience, in essence, he would say, quoting Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, is to “Give God Permission.” He also recognized the misunderstandings and misconceptions of the vow. The cardinal said, “There is nothing blind about it; there’s nothing irrational about it…. For me obedience is a very rational virtue because it’s an attempt always to seek and be in accord with the will of God. … There is nothing magical or mystical about it. It is turning our will over to the will of Almighty God, opening our minds and our hearts, giving God permission to do whatever He will, in us, through us…”

And this ‘seeking and being in accord with the will of God,’ done out of love, Mother Teresa would say, satiates the thirst of Jesus. She often spoke about Jesus’ thirst from the Cross. He thirsts for souls to be completely surrendered to Him in all things; He thirsts for us. We too, can participate in satiating His thirst – when we offer small acts of surrender, of obedience in love to Him, we are doing precisely that!

Those who profess religious vows seek to imitate Jesus, who became obedient to the Father even unto deathin doing so, we also hope to make reparation for our past disobedience and the ‘chronic disobedience of the world.’ ALL faithful disciples of Jesus, however, are invited to truly cultivate obedience, perhaps, not as a vow, but as a virtue and disposition of heart – this virtue – is in fact, required of whatever vocation to which one is called.

As we approach Lent in just a few days, as an effort to cultivate this virtue, we can train ourselves to become obedient to a particular discipline.  Perhaps, for some, it is a force of habit to hit snooze several times before rolling out of bed. If so, one can discipline themselves to get out of bed without hitting snooze – even once – for love of Jesus. Or perhaps, we can begin to train ourselves to take out the trash when it is full instead of waiting for our roommate, younger brother, older sister, etc., to take it out. For even in the smallest acts of discipline, acts of obedience, when done out of ‘mad-love’ for Jesus, satiates the thirst of Jesus and as result allows us to grow in deeper love and thirst of Him.

The virtue of obedience (upon which the vow is founded), the Cardinal said, “develops in the disciple a new capacity for measureless, disinterested love; to teach by his life; to be a model of goodness, humility and service.”

May we yearn for this measureless, disinterested love as we prepare our hearts to be united with Jesus in the desert.

Blessed Lent to you and may the Lord of Life increasingly become your “Thirst” obeyed with freedom and joy.