The Second corporal work of mercy, ‘Give Drink To The Thirsty’ doesn’t immediately strike one as something urgent in our modern society. It is a rare occasion when we are really thirsty. We are never far away from clean water in America. So, what is the importance and meaning of this Corporal Work of Mercy, and how do we practice it?
Firstly, water is very commonplace, and generally not expensive. We tend to take it for granted. But, as we know, water is very important. Our bodies are mostly made of water, and the earth is mostly covered with water. However, simply because water is common does not minimize its significance. Just like many of God’s creations: trees, fresh air to breath, love, grace, birth, death - there is an abundance of them. (Sometimes it requires the loss of something to make us appreciate it properly).
The plenitude of water does not reduce its importance. God chose water to be used as our Baptismal Bath, and water is scripturally referenced with both cleansing (baptism), and weddings: The parting of the Red Sea, the wedding feast at Cana , Rebecca drawing water at the well at Haran for Eleazar (answer to his prayer to find bride for Isaac), Moses finding his bride Zipporah at the well in Midian.
Secondly, water is a very basic bodily requirement. Clean water is readily available in modern countries. However, I was surprised to learn that an estimated 1.1 billion persons worldwide lack access to an improved water source. (Refer to CDC March 2006 Safe Water Fact Sheet.) Children suffer most when clean water is not available. Supporting groups like Global Water (globalwater.org) is a tangible way to provide quality water to those without.
Also, recalling the death of Terri Schindler Schiavo in Lent 2005, reminds us of the importance of water. In this event, the confusion of our society was evident, as many people could not connect the dots and unfortunatley, sanctioned death by dehydration, without realizing they were promoting the Culture of Death. As Catholics, we clearly understand that water does not constitute medical treatment – it is essential for life, for the healthy as well as the sick. When we support the Culture of Life - from conception to natural death - we are, in end-of-life issues, fulfilling the 2nd Corporal Work of Mercy. This is clearly an area where many, many people are very confused about what is right and wrong, and there is opportunity to educate those we come into contact with in our daily lives. On these important Pro-Life issues, we can be witnesses to our family, friends, neighbors and coworkers.
Thirdly, and more importantly, our society ‘thirsts’ for the Truth, who is Jesus Christ.
Jesus is offering each of us satisfaction, that – much as we try, we will be unable to find in His creation (the world). By our example, and cooperation with the Holy Spirit, we give testament to others, of Jesus and His saving power. We can fulfill the Second Corporal Work of Mercy by witnessing to those around us that the world’s goods do not satisfy. We can help all those who suffer from addictions - of fame, power, material wealth and possessions, alcohol, drugs, sex, etc. that, unlike these false worldly elixirs – which destroy lives - Jesus satisfies. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” (St. Augustine)There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:7-14)