Today’s first reading says:
The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain,
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I, the LORD, will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I am not going to lie, this immediately brought my mind to the latest compilation of homilies from Clear Faith Publishing, Thirsty, And You Gave Me Drink. This collection of reflections and homilies offered by some of the best and more progressive Christians is a treasure for one’s own reflection, homiletic helpers for pastors, book clubs, Bible studies, and discussion groups. And it benefits charities that offer water aid.
It also struck me in another way, as Scripture often will do… In the dim, quiet of my morning prayer space, I thought of all the people I interact with at my workplace. The young, the old, the angry, the contented, the joyful, the mourning, the rich, the poor, the hungry. Like James Joyce once wrote of the Catholic Church, “here comes everybody.”
Like the most beautiful objects, worn from being tumbled in the sea of God’s love, they wash ashore. Maybe they need a mass card, or want to drop off a donation. Perhaps they have a question, or they are looking for a priest to bless an item or some holy water. Some come to offer their complaints and opinions, others, the majority, to offer thanks. Many come not because they worship at the Table of the Lord, but because their own tables are sparse, lacking food. Some are hucksters, some are holy, some are in between. Hopefully everyone who departs does so with something they were seeking.
So, you may ask, what does this have to do with thirst?
Almost everyone who comes to the door is thirsty for something. Not necessarily actual water, but they all long for the water of life. I’m thinking specifically of those who express their frustrations to me. These are people who are members of the community, dedicated and loyal, showing up, taking part, offering their gifts, whatever those gifts might be. Yet they thirst. Some are parched for want of a “holier’ church. Some are parched for a church that will bring back the “smells and bells” of their youth. Some want a more progressive church – you would be shocked, or maybe not, at the number of older people who tell me about their 50 year old sons and daughters with their same sex partners. And how they wish their kids felt included, because no matter how old your kids are, you want for them and you want them at the table with you.
People express their discontent with the church, perhaps because so many churches have no priest, like my workplace. Our beloved pastor died unexpectedly of a heart attack 2 months ago. I’m not ready to talk about that just yet, soon. But God’s people whisper in my ear that they feel as if the Church has abandoned us, and that the Church has burdened the priests by giving them 2 or 3 parishes. Many speak in hushed tones of married priests or women priests. Whatever it is they want, they thirst for it.
Others are simply disaffected. They have not yet returned to in person mass for various and sundry reasons, but they still feel connected – in a way. They are not sure what it is they long for, but they know their thirst is unmet.
Going back to our Isaiah reading, the point is that God knows the thirst of God’s people, and God will provide relief. That sounds nice, but what does it mean? I have a lot of thoughts about that, but for this moment, I will say this – are you thirsty? And whether or not you say yes, my next question is – can you offer someone else relief through the droplets of God’s refreshment that you possess? If in our own desperate thirsts, we can share a drop of something or another, whatever mercy or love, a listening ear or an open heart, the dynamic might suddenly shift.
We long for grand gestures, but perhaps this Advent, half over as it is, we can see the enormity of God’s love in a tiny drop of spiritual water. And in sharing it, we can bring forth the Christ we await, changing the world with every step.