Bulletin Letter, Ordinary Time Sunday 17C
A few different times this summer, I’ve seen lemonade stands set up on the side of the road. The heat of this past week brings them to mind, although I’ve become a bit wary of buying lemonade on the sidewalk after seeing a policeman lecturing a group of kids about not having the proper permits. Still, I remember from my earlier summers of mowing lawns and working in cornfields just how refreshing a cold beverage can be while working in the sun and heat of a summer day in South Dakota. My recent hike in northern Minnesota on the Superior Hiking Trail saw us drinking any water we could find through a pretty ingenious straw filter. The trips I took to Mexico and Belize were also punctuated by the motto, “Hydrate or die.”
When I was learning about our metabolism and homeostasis in school, it seemed like water didn’t actually do very much. The food we eat is broken down to produce energy, and proteins and other nutrients are rearranged to provide structure, growth, and healing for our bodies. Even the oxygen we use undergoes a chemical change when it becomes carbon dioxide. Water itself doesn’t really change all that much inside our bodies, and as we sweat to maintain a stable temperature, the water only evaporates and undergoes a physical change. The basic structure of H2O doesn’t change.
Of course, we know that water is actually essential in all the most crucial processes of biology. I just came across the survival rules of three, which state that human beings in extreme situations can survive for 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, or 3 weeks without food. Water is a necessity of life. Because it allows so many other substances to dissolve in it, water is the necessary context in which a countless number of life’s most important processes take place, even though the water itself doesn’t change much.
Water has always been a symbol of purity, and this makes good sense if we think about how we are still using the very same water as in pre-historic times. No matter what it goes through (or what goes through it), it remains essentially the same water that is constantly renewed and recycled through evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. Scripture speaks of wisdom in similar terms: “Although she is one, she can do all things, and she renews everything while herself perduring. Passing into holy souls from age to age, she produces friends of God and prophets” (Wisdom 7:27).
Using the same symbol of water, Jesus invites us to drink of God’s own life: “‘Let anyone who thirsts come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture says: Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’ He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in Him were to receive” (John 7:37-39). God does not change as He pours Himself into our hearts, but His grace is the necessary context for so many of the changes that need to take place in our lives. For our spiritual life and health, we need God even more than we need water. Hydrate or die. Drink deeply of God’s life, or thirst for eternity. The choice is simple; make it a good one.