Longing, Thirsting For God

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

O God, you are my God, for you I long; For you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you, Like a dry, weary land without water.
For your love is better than life.
On my bed I remember you.
On you I muse through the night. (Ps 63: 2,4,7)

This Psalm appears frequently in the Breviary, the official prayer of the Church. It’s a beautiful prayer, one that expresses in compelling language our natural human longing for God, the God in whom “we live, and move and have our being,” as St. Paul preached. (Acts 17: 28)
I have to confess, though, whenever I say the prayer I feel a little bit guilty, because the experience of the Psalmist isn’t always my experience. It’s not very often that I actually long for God; that my soul thirsts for him; and that I “muse on him during the night.” I guess I’m just not that holy.
And that longing for God is important, for it’s the first step to holiness. We won’t, we can’t, obtain something we don’t really want. And most of us don’t think much about God in the course of our everyday lives, do we? It’s a typical human experience, I suppose. You don’t appreciate food until you’re hungry. You don’t appreciate water until you’re thirsty. You don’t appreciate air until you can’t breathe. And we don’t appreciate God until we need him.
One of the lessons of the lockdown during the pandemic was that we missed things that we had always taken for granted: our family, our friends, our routines; and in the spiritual realm, the ability to go to church, pray with others and receive the sacraments, especially at key moments in our life. It’s not that God abandoned us; he was still there. But our ability to meet him, to encounter him in the church was greatly diminished. For many Catholics it was a heart-breaking, soul-wrenching experience.
Jesus said, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Mt 5: 6) The truth is, we don’t grow in righteousness, in holiness, because we don’t really try to; we don’t hunger and thirst for it.
May God grant us the desire to long for him, to thirst for him, for his love is better than life.
Something to think about: On a scale of 1 – 10, how strong is your longing for God?


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