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Corporal Works of Mercy Fall 2023 Homily Series: Refreshing the Thirsty

This weekend we continue our Fall preaching series … the corporal works of

mercy and focus on our second theme: giving drink to the thirsty.

As I walk the Stevens campus, or through our downtown or even the streets of

NYC, I am very conscious of the people who carry their water bottles, sometimes

even gallon jugs. It’s symbolic to me of not only how our bodies need water, but

more deeply of how we thirst.

Because our body is 90% water, some suggest that we need to drink 2.5 - 3 liters

of water per day. I am always behind in this goal! Water is restricted only in

patients with chronic kidney disease and congestive heart failures. And you know

that water helps in maintaining the body temperature, required in metabolism,

flushes body wastes, cushions the brain, spinal cord and other sensitive organs,

helps in maintaining the blood pressure and has many more functions. That’s the

physical … but what about the spiritual, for what do you thirst? Surely, we all

have longings and desires.

And while we don’t usually talk about the things we want in terms of “hunger”

and “thirst,” these words really ring true. Isn’t our aim to be satisfied? We hope

our wishes will be fulfilled so we can find wholeness and completion, and we

believe these things will bring satisfaction.

We hunger and thirst for the things we desire. But the question we all must ask

ourselves is, “What do I hunger and thirst for?”

It is a sad truth that we, as Christians, often hunger and thirst for the same things

the world does: stable incomes, praise from friends and neighbors, beauty,

individuality, and so much more. We can be just as obsessed as our non-believing

peers about holiday décor and the latest fashion trends, what show to watch on

Netflix and even how much we weigh. But when do these things ever satisfy?

The thrill of success never lasts. Money comes and goes. Friends disappoint. Life

circumstances cause our body to change in ways we can’t control. And that one

unique experience is never enough. These pursuits can be maddening and futile,

and they certainly don’t keep us satisfied for very long.

We may think we can find wholeness with the things of this world, but clearly, we

can’t. In the midst of the chaos of our everyday lives, many of us have asked

ourselves at one point or another, “What is the point of all this?”

When the object of our desire is found in this world, our anticipated thrill of

satisfaction can quickly turn to disappointment and maybe even despair.

We are reminded that Jesus hears our cries. He knows our desperation, and one

of his many words of encouragement to us is this: “Blessed are those who hunger

and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

In his well-known Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gets straight to the heart of the

matter and addresses our soul. For, ultimately, true and lasting satisfaction is a

spiritual issue, not a physical one. If you feel your life is lacking or incomplete, the

answer is not to bolster your income or start a new diet. The answer, rather, is to

reconsider the state, livelihood, and actions of your faith.

For as we pursue the things of God on this earth, not only will we find the true

and everlasting satisfaction that only Christ can provide, but we also will see that

the wishes and desires of this world will slowly fade away.

And while we cannot get all the virtues of our faith complete in a day, we can ascribe to trying

to perfect some of those virtues one at a time over the course of our lives.

Today, the readings speak to us of forgiveness, kindness, mercy and compassion. Can we think

about and commit to work on some of those? Can we work to satisfy those thirsts?

The first reading, while ancient, is contemporary. Jesus ben Sirach wrote this book of wisdom

about 180 B.C. This book, also known as Ecclesiasticus, was a text for the education of wealthy

young men in Jerusalem. Sirach revealed the tensions in the city: the rifts between rich and

poor, between the local populace and their foreign rulers, between male and female. The reality

of the day made many wonder, How does a righteous Jew live in such a culture of tension? We

may ask a similar question today amid the tensions of our time.

Sirach proposed a simple, but radical solution: forgiveness. There was no way around the gossip,

the backstabbing or the slander. Living inevitably led to hurt. So, the person faced two choices,

react to the sin at the level of sin … or forgive. Become part of the problem … or rise above with

the solution. If the believer wished mercy from God, then he should act as the Lord acted.

The sage reminded his reader and reminds us too that life is short; and the believer should

consider the coming end. That should be motivation enough to set aside enmity and seek the

peace that came from forgiveness. Undoubtedly, we thirst for this peace too!

Life isn't perfect but it can be lived in relative peace, only if the living make it so. Yes, forgiveness

is difficult, but not impossible. And the alternative is much worse.

Perhaps each of us can name one person in our life that we can forgive today. And if we’re not

ready to take that big step, then let’s resolve at least to pray for that person.

In this beautiful season may we start every day with a hunger for God’s Word and may we thirst

to put its lessons into action.


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