December 14, 2016 – A Precious Gift

Yesterday we talked about shifting our perspective when we invite Jesus into our lives on a daily basis. We can see how our relationship with creation can shift from manager to co-worker. Today and the days following we are going to look more closely at our relationships with some basic human needs to see how our invitation to Jesus could improve them.

Let’s start with water. I know it is Advent, but one of the key phrases of Lent, another liturgical season full of opportunities for active anticipation, is Jesus’ words from the cross “I thirst.” Many saints, including the recently canonized St. Mother Teresa, emphasize the importance of these words and dedicated their lives to satiating Jesus’ thirst for for the conversion of souls. This is indeed a right and true interpretation of these words. However, it is also important to see the other side, the literal side. Mother Teresa did this well. She recognized that in order for souls to be saved, the body should also to be nourished.

Jesus did as well. Before explaining about the Bread of Life, Jesus fed the crowd. Before forgiving sins He typically healed the individual’s body. His very first miracle was to refill everyone’s wine glasses at a wedding. Jesus was definitely concerned about the spiritual state of the Jewish people, but he was also very much in tune with their physical needs.

  • 42,000 people each year die from poor water quality and the absence of  adequate sanitation
  • 2.6 billion people are without proper sanitation facilities
  • Each year, inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene contribute to the deaths of 1.5 million children (statistics from World Hunger and Dehydration)

These are big statistics but important ones. While many of us in the United States may be shielded from the harsh realities of what it means to go without water, there is clearly a large portion of the world that lacks this basic necessity. Not only are we shielded, many of us are picky about our water. Bottled vs. tap. Flavored vs. natural. We invest in filtration systems, infusers and and specific brands. With so many without water, one has to wonder:

“Is clean water a basic human right or a product for sale?” (Horan, Daniel. God is Not Fair. (2016). pg 26.

That is the question I would like to leave you with for today. But before you ponder it and what implications your answer could have, be sure to say the Sign of the Cross and invite Jesus into your conversation.

***How did your list writing go yesterday? Are you seeing your relationship with creation in a new way? Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook page.Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

 

Touching the Water

Last night I was giving Clare (the baby) a bath. She loves bath time, especially kicking and splashing water everywhere. She is fascinated with the water. It’s interesting to observe how she is learning about water and how it is different than anything else she encounters. She will go from kicking and thrashing around to very still while she tries in vain to pick up the water. She stares intently at the surface of the water and slowly lowers her hand. She tries to keep it above the water and pick it up with her fingers. Fail. She tries to put her hand under the water and then pinch it between her fingers. Foiled again. Last nightExploring water she kept looking up at me as if to say, “Come on Mom, help me out. What am I doing wrong?” She will, of course, eventually learn about how water works and that we can’t just pick it up like a ball, a crayon, or the rather noisy bunch of Legos she is currently banging together as I type this.

It’s funny how one thought, one image, can send your mind hurtling down a path of which you feel like you have no control and then pull you back to the present in a matter of seconds. That sensation is what happened to me while I was watching Clare try to understand how the surface of the water worked. While she explored this basic principle of life, my mind went whizzing through the story of Peter in the boat when Jesus walks on water. (Refresher: see Matthew 14:22-33).

He had just fed the crowd of 5 thousand with the 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus tells his disciples, “Go on ahead, I’ll finish saying good bye to the crowd and send them home. I’ll catch up” (Or something like that, I’m imagining and fleshing out some dialogue here and following:) Maybe the disciples were grateful, after all they must have had a long day passing out food and managing the crowd. Maybe some of them tried to stay with Jesus, insisting that he must be exhausted too and need not over exert himself. However it happened, the disciples were on the boat without Jesus. Matthew tells us that it was the 4th watch of the night, so very late at night or very early in the morning, depending on your view. The sun had probably not broken over the horizon, but dawn was not too far off. Enough light to see a shape coming toward the boat, even in the wind and waves.

Can you imagine the thoughts that went through the disciples’ minds? Scripture gives us one – a ghost. And what else could it be really? We all know that nothing can stand on liquid water. We know this fact so deeply it is not something we even ponder or debate. It seems our desire for survival forbids us from even testing the possibility. And yet, Jesus walked on water.

Walking on WaterEven more shocking is what happens next. Peter, in all his brashness, in his forthright, confident, and somewhat naive manner, commands Jesus! Can you picture yourself as one of the other disciples, listening to Peter? Have you ever seen people take a step away from someone who has just said something outrageous, silly or wrong as if to say “I’m not actually with that person who just messed up over there, don’t look at me please.” I kind of imagine that’s what the other disciples did. “What did he say? You didn’t actually mean that Peter. Jesus, he really didn’t mean it. Please Jesus, ghost, or whatever you are, don’t make us walk on the water too!”

Jesus, in the rendition I currently have playing in my head, smiles and shakes his head at Peter. He acquiesces to Peter’s request and commands him to come out on the water. Incredibly, Peter does. Remember, he has just witnessed Jesus feeding that huge crowd with a small amount of food. It truly was a miracle of enormous proportions and must have been fresh in Peter’s head. His belief in Jesus and who he was had been steadily growing. Matthew’s Gospel details numerous healings and teachings. In another instance in a boat, Jesus calms a storm. The disciple’s reaction is to question among themselves who Jesus really was.

Peter must have made a decision. In this moment, he has made a choice. No longer uncertain of who Jesus is, Peter boldly steps out of the boat. He is leaving behind the known, the understood and the safe. He is choosing to walk toward Jesus, even though the way was unsettling, uneven, and most definitely not solid. But Peter has made a choice. He must have believed that Jesus was more than just a man. He was convinced of it, or he would not have left the boat.

Once Peter was actually out of the boat, in his shock and amazement, he looked down. He doubted and that is when he began to sink. But Jesus, of course, reaches out his hand and pulls Peter up. Once back in the boat, this time the disciples do not question and wonder about who Jesus is. In Matthew’s Gospel, this is the first time that the disciples articulate that Jesus is the Son of God. Peter’s faith was the turning point.

Faith is a turning point in our lives. What do we believe in? Just how much do we believe it? Are we willing to get out of our boats – our places of safety, comfort, the known – and explore the places faith is calling us to walk. They may be places of discomfort, of the unknown, of being uncertain or perhaps even a bit afraid. Faith pushes us, it stretches us, is demands much of us. But in return, faith in God rewards us, brings us joy and peace and never, not even once, leaves us.