Give Drink to the Thirsty

April 24, 2016


Emptying Oneself  So Another Can Receive

The image of a vessel has resonated with me for some time. I was reintroduced to the idea of emptying oneself to become a vessel of the Holy Spirit a few years ago. This profound idea means emptying oneself, one’s desires, and one’s needs, so that through that person, the Holy Spirit might meet the desires and needs of others. I was moved to make this my prayer for my own life and how God might use me to do His work in this world.

The vessel metaphor lends itself in another beautiful way to the outpouring of mercy as we consider the second corporal work of mercy: Give Drink to the Thirsty.

As years passed, the image of myself as a vessel continued to deepen within me. It manifests itself still in very real moments when I concretely give what is not of me, but of God to someone I encounter. The concrete action of giving others the basic necessities of life, be it drink, food, clothing, or shelter. This is a humbling action of being the vessel which holds what the other is in need of, and as this give-and-take occurs.  It answers a prayer within me as to how to show mercy.

How can we give drink to the physically thirsty?

There was a brief time period a few years back that I would spend Saturday mornings with my mom driving to visit my great aunt in a nursing home. Margie was a small, but strong woman. Her devout faith made her a force to be reckoned with. She attended mass as often as she could while serving the church in many ways. I recall Margie’s strength and was often amazed at the feats she could accomplish. She was a fierce competitor in a game of dominoes as well as canasta. In my mind, she wasn’t weak or frail, until it happened all at once.

The purpose of our Saturday morning visits were to bring Christ to her in the Most Holy Eucharist. Upon our arrival, my mom would read Margie the scriptures from that day, and we would say the Our Father together. My mom would then give Margie the Eucharist and quietly we would sit as she slowly consumed him into her fragile body. We would then sit for a while, telling Margie news of the family while doing what we could to make her more comfortable.

Visiting Aunt Margie:

This routine occurred most Saturdays until the one that stands out the most to me. It seemed like a normal visit. My mom and I had followed all the same steps preparing to call on Margie. When we met her in her room that morning, I could tell something was different about her that day. She seemed weaker than before and she wasn’t as responsive to our greetings.

As we began our prayers, my mom surprised me by leading Margie in a decade of the rosary instead of the daily readings. As I watched, Margie’s lips slowly began to move, then eventually praying each word of the Hail Mary and Glory Be. When we finished, my mom placed a small, soft piece of the Eucharist on Margie’s tongue, and we waited as she left it there for a brief moment longer. As I watched, I imagined Margie savoring the sweet taste of the Eucharist on her lips. I imagined her receiving every morsel tenderly and graciously.

Offering Physical Drink:

After a moment or two, my mom suggested that I give Margie a drink of water. I held the clear, plastic cup up to her lips, carefully placing the straw within reach. As I held it there for her, she carefully took a few sips, and then closed her eyes. I’ll never know her prayer in that moment. In the weeks to come she was less able to communicate back to us more than a slight acknowledgement that she knew we were there with her.

Reflecting back on that particular visit, I recall the profound meaning I took from being a part of that moment between Margie and Christ. For her, it would become the last time that she would receive Christ in the Eucharist. For me, it was an opportunity to give drink to the thirsty. Realizing, it wasn’t what she was used to, being ministered to, as she had spent her entire life ministering to others.

Placing myself back in that moment, I recognize a humble feeling came over me as I raised the cup to her lips, an opportunity to serve, to give to a woman who deserved so much more than I had to give her. For her, it was the drink she needed. For me, it was an act of human love manifested in a sip of water.

Providing Drink for the Thirsty: 

Reflect on your life.  Who is in need of physical drink?

  • Is there a family member in a nursing home or possible home-bound or elderly who needs help with the basic task of lifting a glass of water to drink?  Can you go visit them this week?
  • Is there a family member or friend who is in the hospital recovering from surgery or a fighting a sickness who is being given drink through an IV?  Might they need a visit?
  • What about the young parents in your life, who are providing drink for their thirsty infants?  How might you help them with this task this week?
  • Is there a man or woman who might be working at your home, completing a task for you– mowing your lawn, cleaning your home, painting, fixing a leak, mending a broken item in your home?  Would an offer of a cold drink rejuvenate them?
  • What about a homeless man, woman, or child in your city?  What might the gift of cold water do for them this week?

Want to go even deeper? 

As the USCCB reminds us,  “Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ do not have access to clean water and suffer from the lack of this basic necessity.  We should support the efforts of those working towards greater accessibility of this essential resource.”

  • Donate:  Donate to a cause that helps provide clean water through the building of wells and sewage systems.
  • Conserve: Make an effort not to waste water.
  • Serve: Give of your time to an organization in your area that provides the basic necessities of life – food and drink.

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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