Second Sunday of Lent
March 12, 2017
by Professor Hosffman Ospino Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Education School of Theology and Ministry
Hosffman Ospino holds an MA in theology with a concentration in church history and a PhD in theology and education from Boston College. Dr. Ospino’s research concentrates on the dialogue between theology and culture and the impact of this interchange upon Catholic theological education, catechesis, and ministry.
Readings for the Second Sunday of Lent:
Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
2 Timothy 1:8b-10
Matthew 17: 1-9
I Am Thirsty…Would You Give Me Drink?
Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…I was thirsty and you gave me drink.' (Matthew 25:34-35b).
There is nothing more essential to sustaining human life than air and water, literally. We tend to take these precious gifts for granted, of course, until their quality declines or they become dramatically scarce. Without air or water, human life is not possible. Period. Although the affirmation may sound commonsensical, perhaps a topic for casual conversation, we are talking about a life-and-death reality that should be very much at the forefront of our Christian awareness. I would like to invite you to dare making it part of your reflection during this Lenten season.
It is tempting to take Jesus's words lightly, "I was thirsty and you gave me drink." One can imagine oneself in a scenario with a thirsty neighbor; one hands her a glass of water, and then everyone parts ways feeling good. Maybe Jesus also had this in mind. When I first visited the Holy Land, I walked long stretches of arid paths, sometimes for several hours at once, and the idea of giving drink to someone thirsty or receiving drink on a scorching hot day acquired a new meaning. Giving drink to one another is important, yet it seems rather easy. Was Jesus onto something else? Mindful that the Gospel possesses a radically prophetic dimension, my sense is that we need to read Jesus' words against some pressing realities in our day:
- More than a billion people in the world do not have access to fresh and safe water. About a third of humanity lives in places where water is not available at least one month during the year.
- Increasingly prolonged droughts have a direct negative impact on farming and quality of life, the price of food increases, and millions of people every year must leave their homes and lands to search for places with water.
- High levels of contamination in rivers, lakes, and other sources of drinking water threaten the wellbeing and even the lives of millions of people, particularly the poor and those on the margins of societies.
Lack of fresh and safe water, prolonged droughts, and water contamination are also serious concerns for people living in the United States. They affect the young and the old, the native-born and the immigrant, the rich and the poor —although more disproportionally the poor. These realities should compel us as Christian disciples, especially as we proclaim that every human person has a right to live with dignity. When we encounter people who are thirsty, regardless of their race/ethnicity, gender, age, and religion, they are the face of Christ for us here and now. Are we seeing the face of Christ in this person who says, "I am thirsty…would you give me drink?"
In his inspiring encyclical letter Laudato Si' (On Care of Our Common Home), Pope Francis speaks directly about the reality of water, providing what could be considered a clear path of action for Catholics and many others. Pope Francis asserts:
Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor. But water continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world but also in developing countries which possess it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behavior within a context of great inequality (n. 30).
The invitation is clear: 1) Remain attentive to practices and policies that may undermine access to water as a basic and universal right. 2) Recognize the social debt toward the poor who lack access to drinking water. Own it and respond to it. 3) Educate yourself and others about how to better treasure the gift of water. All three are clear expressions of commitment to justice as inspired by the Gospel message. Perhaps these are the "glasses of water" that the Lord wants us to hand to those who are thirsty today, particularly during this Lent.
As we reflect upon the words of Jesus, "I was thirsty and you gave me drink," we need to embrace an attitude of intentional honesty about the realities just described. To limit ourselves to say "water scarcity is not my problem" or "the issue of water contamination is beyond my hands" minimizes the prophetic dimension of our Christian identity. Seeing the face of Christ in the one who is thirsty demands that we do something.
What can you take up this Lent once you see the face of Christ in those who are thirsty? Let me offer you a few suggestions:
Educate yourself, your family, and community about issues related to water
Have a conversation with your children or grandchildren about this topic. Host a meeting in your faith community to talk about the use of water. Draw from the wells of our Catholic tradition. For instance:
- Pope Francis, Laudato Si' Laudato Si' (On Care of Our Common Home), n. 27-31
- Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching, n. 484-485
Find out what policies in your town, city, or state may undermine access to fresh and safe water for all. Write or speak with your political representatives about the implications of such policies. Express your opinion informed by your faith.
Do something practical this Lent
- Save water. Write a set of simple rules at home for all members to use water responsibly.
- Send a donation to an organization supporting families displaced by droughts.
- Offer, at least once a week, a prayer of thanksgiving with your family for the gifts of water and air, and the rest of the created order that make life possible.
For reflection and discussion:
1. What can you do to change attitudes of in our society and our families regarding indifference toward issues such as lack of fresh and safe water, prolonged droughts, and water contamination?
2. What will you do this Lent to see the face of Christ in those who are thirsty?
3. Can you spare 15 minutes of your busy life at some point this week to pray and meditate? If so, name that moment, reserve it, and treat it as sacred. Return to this reflection during that time.
Please submit a comment or response to this week’s Reflection below. We will post as many possible.