Friday, October 19, 2012

Life-giving water; giving water for life

Just like last Friday, I am feeling a burn for justice today. This burn, I am unashamed to say, was sparked by reading yet another very good book, the latest by Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP, Take the Plunge: Living Baptism and Confirmation, with a little fuel added by listening to Robert Griffo's personal tale, which he told to StoryCorps and that aired on NPR's Morning Edition today (click either link to hear it- go on, it's short!)- it seemed like symmetry to me that NPR named Griffo's story "'Black Monday' Plunge: From 'High Life' To Street Life."

Because he is writing about baptism throughout most of the book (despite our best efforts over the past century, it makes no sense to discuss confirmation apart from baptism), he can't help but write about water, which forces me to move from burning to thirsting. One of the biggest problems in the world today is access to suitably clean water. What I have offer is an excerpt from Fr. Radcliffe's book.

After observing with regard to account of the fall and expulsion from the garden in Genesis 3 that "those first gardeners failed and were thrust out of the garden," he writes,

The sign of our alienation is that the ground became sterile and brought forth thorns and thistles. But when Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac, and so destroy the fruit of his loins, he found a ram caught in a thorn bush. According to Jewish tradition it was in a thorn bush, burning but not consumed, that Moses encountered the living God and the summons to journey to the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey. Finally the one who would free the land from sterility and bring the springtime of grace, carries on his head a crown of thorns. So it is in this symbol of the badlands, weeds that are neither beautiful nor useful that we find the promise of a new fertility. It is fitting that when, on Easter morning, Mary Magdalene comes looking for the corpse of of the one whom she loves, she meets someone she mistakes for a gardener
It is little known that one of the main points of contention between Turkey and Syria is the water of the Euphrates River, which, as Radcliffe also notes, along with the Tigris and the Nile, also sources of political dispute, is one of the great rivers according to biblical geography. Consider this fact conveyed by Friar Timothy: as of 2007 "the average amount of water used daily by one person living in Ethiopia, Somalia, Eriteria, Djibouti, Gambia, Mali, Mozambique, Tanzania, or Uganda equals that used by someone in a developed country brushing his or her teeth with the tap running."

While "the right to private property is not absolute and unconditional," (Populorum Progresso par. 23), at least according to Catholic social teaching, "the right to safe drinking water is a universal and inalienable right" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church par. 485).

According to St. John's account of Jesus' crucifixion, our Lord's penultimate words were, "I thirst" (John 19:28). Many times Jesus commends those who, in the hot desert climate of the Holy Land, offer a drink of water to one who thirsts, telling His disciples that those who offer them a drink "will surely not lose his reward" (Mark 9:41). Among the corporal works of mercy is giving the thirsty a drink.

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