Give drink to the thirsty

“Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward” (Mk 9:41).  Jesus made this promise about what will be due to someone who gives a thirsty Christian a simple drink. Matthew’s Gospel does give a slightly different quote from Jesus: “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple — amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward” (Mt 10:42).

Jesus expands the scope of to whom we should be giving a drink in His discourse on the sheep and the goats at the final judgment, when He says that those who will be admitted into the Kingdom “gave [Him] to drink” when He was thirsty (Mt 25:35). In other words, we are called upon by Jesus to quench the thirst of anyone in need of this assistance.

In every chapel of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity (such as in New Bedford) Jesus’ Words from the cross are on the wall next to the crucifix: “I thirst.” Mother Teresa explained, “We have these words in every chapel of the MCs to remind us what an MC is here for: to quench the thirst of Jesus for souls, for love, for kindness, for compassion, for delicate love.”

The sainted Sister returned to this quote over and over again in her life. “At this most difficult time [dying on the cross] He proclaimed, ‘I thirst.’ And people thought He was thirsty in an ordinary way and they gave Him vinegar straight away; but it was not for that thirst; it was for our life, our affection, that intimate attachment to Him, and that sharing of His Passion. He used, ‘I thirst,’ instead of ‘Give Me your love’ — ‘I thirst.’ Let us hear Him saying it to me and saying it to you.”

Dr. Edward Sri has a blog post about Blessed Teresa’s teachings about “I thirst.” He noted the connection between the Corporal Work of Mercy of giving drink to the thirsty and Jesus’ thirst for us. “What should our response be to Jesus’ thirst for our love?  When a suffering person in Ethiopia or India experienced torturing thirst, Mother Teresa would quickly bring water to satiate that thirst. In a similar way, Jesus thirsts for our love, and Mother Teresa desired to satiate His thirst by promptly responding to His will, by making sacrifices for Him, by loving Him in the people she served and by entrusting her entire life into His hands. ‘This is Jesus’ Word, “I thirst” — for love, for souls not water’” (the final sentence is from Mother Teresa).

In our country at the moment, we are mindful of the thirst that people in Flint, Mich. and in other places have for clean water, to drink and to use for cooking and bathing. Many people, especially children, have responded to this need, although much more needs to be done (since the problem remains). You can help the people of Flint through Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Lansing. According to its website, FaithinFlint.com, “Monetary donations may be mailed to 901 Chippewa Street, Flint, Mich. 48503. Please include ‘water relief’ on the memo line of the donation. Monetary donations also can be made by visiting www.CatholicCharitiesFlint.org.”

The Catholic Church has consistently called for the increasing availability of clean water all over the world. Pope Benedict XVI on Sept. 17, 2010 challenged British leaders in a speech in London (but the words speak to all of us in the First World): “In recent years it has been encouraging to witness the positive signs of a worldwide growth in solidarity towards the poor. But to turn this solidarity into effective action calls for fresh thinking that will improve life conditions in many important areas, such as food production, clean water, job creation, education, support to families, especially migrants, and basic healthcare. Where human lives are concerned, time is always short: yet the world has witnessed the vast resources that governments can draw upon to rescue financial institutions deemed ‘too big to fail.’ Surely the integral human development of the world’s peoples is no less important: here is an enterprise, worthy of the world’s attention, that is truly ‘too big to fail.’”

On March 2, 2014 Pope Francis echoed his predecessor’s message: “The road that Jesus points out can seem a little unrealistic with respect to the common mindset and to problems due to the economic crisis; but, if we think about it, this road leads us back to the right scale of values. He says: ‘Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?’ (Mt 6:25). In order to ensure that no one lacks bread, water, clothing, a home, work, health, we need to recognize that all people are children of the Father Who is in Heaven and, therefore, brothers among us, and that we must act accordingly.”

A complicated situation which occasionally presents itself to us, especially when in cities, is that of someone begging, supposedly for food or drink. Often our fear is that any money we give will go to drinks, of the alcoholic kind, or to drugs. The London-based charity, Thames Reach, tells us that that fear is justified, because the facts bear it out. It has a good article on the subject (www.thamesreach.org.uk/news-and-views/campaigns/giving-to-beggars/faq/), which urges us to not give money to people asking for it on the street. 

The Catholic blogsite Patheos has a meditation (www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2013/09/giving-your-money-to-drug-addicts.html) on what we should do — and on our temptation to do absolutely nothing. The author, Marc Barnes, reminds us that we can’t just “walk on by,” as Dionne Warwick sang. Instead, although we can keep our money (for that moment — we will need to use it later to help improve society), we need to be open to encountering Christ in these troubled souls (we’re troubled, too, just in different ways) and seeing how we can assist Him.

May Christ guide us in quenching His thirst in so many ways.


© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts