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I Thirst!

Thirsting for God is a fundamental need of a deacon

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Deacon YerhotAs a spiritual director, I often ask my deacon directees, “What is your deepest desire in prayer?” Invariably, what I hear in response is a longing for greater intimacy with God and not knowing what impedes their spiritual growth. Deacons in spiritual direction long to be with God in prayer and to find him in active ministry. They desire to remove impediments in the way. They thirst for it.

All deacons, I have come to understand, must become thirsty men. I am concerned that we are not always aware of this fundamental need in our interior lives.

Just as Jesus cried out on the cross that day at Golgotha — “I thirst” — we deacons, from the crosses of our own lives, cry out to the Father, “I thirst for you!” We thirst to know the love of God. In truth, we were created, exist and have been ordained for intimacy with the Father who loves us, and for union with his Son to whom we have been configured. We are unsettled until we are in communion with the Father and his will. This thirst, rooted in human nature and renewed in baptism, is greatly amplified in holy orders through our configuration to Jesus as the obedient son who was sent to suffering humanity.

We were afflicted at ordination with a thirst, a profound purifying thirst. We call out to the Father, “I thirst for you.” The more we submit to his will and embrace a life of prayer, the thirstier we become, until at last we surrender to the coming of Jesus and his servant mysteries into our lives, and slowly begin to undergo its transformation.

It is a struggle. It requires a purgation of our preferred attachments. What are those? What holds us back from accepting this purification? What obstacles distract and numb us, inhibiting our embrace of the interior life?

It is, I believe, our spiritual, emotional and relational wounds. They are the impediments blocking us from drinking deeply of the Father’s love and abandoning ourselves to his will. They are the very things we must come to acknowledge and integrate in some way into our personal salvation histories and God’s plan for all humanity. Can we press our wounds into the wounds of Jesus who will heal us? I think so, but we need the assistance of a competent spiritual director, and for some of us psychological assistance.

Indeed, in spiritual direction and therapy, we slowly begin to realize that it is only in Jesus that we find healing. It is only in Jesus that we are made ready to share his vision of the Father who alone satisfies our thirst. It is only when we begin to integrate our wounds into the totality of our lives — not see them as definitive or anomalous — that healing will occur. It is only when we recognize Jesus present in the depths of our lives, even in the wounds, that we will begin to know the Father’s healing love for us.

With good spiritual and psychological direction, we can be made ready for this intimacy with God within us and in each other. We thirst for this transformation. We long to suffer this healing. Whether we turn to the crucible of contemplative prayer or the crosses of active ministry, we will suffer our thirst and yearn for its fulfillment.

Brothers, I have come to understand that the power of the diaconate lay in being so caught up in and purified by this thirst that we become a purifying presence to others. Freed from our wounds we become what we have drunk and, through our mere presence, draw others into the mystery of divine love.

So, my brothers, what is your deepest desire? Is it to be in Jesus and behold the Father’s love? Your thirst will not be satisfied until you have drunk deeply of this mystery. Your longing will not cease until you have been caught up in God himself.

DEACON ROBERT T. YERHOT, M.S.W., is the assistant director emeritus of the diaconate for the Diocese of Winona-Rochester in Minnesota. He sits on the editorial board for the Josephinum Diaconal Review and has previously published articles on diaconal spirituality.

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