“Let all who thirst come to the water!” This time of the year, it's easy to imagine what it's like to be thirsty. We watch the storms pass by our county as our gardens and yards turn crispy brown. While just a few months ago, we would have gladly passed on some of the rain that came our way, this time of year, we recognize how precious water is.
66 years ago TODAY the Battleship USS Indianapolis was torpedoed and sank in the South Pacific. There were 1200 men on board. A couple hundred of them died in the initial attack… and the other 900 or so were dumped into the shark-infested sea....most without rafts. If that wasn’t bad enough, communications were fumbled, and the Sos was ignored...they thought it was a prank,...so it was four days before anybody even noticed they were missing! In that time, the survivors were picked off one by one …either from injuries, exposure, shark attacks, or from their worst enemy: dehydration. Can you imagine that? Here they were surrounded by water – but dying of dehydration. Some got so desperate, they started gulping the sea water to try to quench their thirst… which for a few minutes felt good – but quickly turned into a painful death and it kills from the inside. They were so desperate for water that when the first boat got to them, the captain asked if they had any water for them. When they said, No, he told the to leave...they were of no use to him. In the end, only 316 survived. In an interview of the survivors 50 years later, a reporter noted that this man was NEVER without a glass of ice water within arm’s reach.
That man knows what REAL thirst is – he realized the value of water and he will do whatever it takes to keep that thirst quenched!!
“Let all who thirst come to the water!”
In one way you and I are like the men in the ocean. Whether we realize it or not, we are thirsty for God. Now, that might sound like mumbo jumbo talk .."that only a saint can really recognize his or her thirst for God...but let me assure you that real men and women like you and me do recognize our need for God...and when we do, we'll do whatever we can to quench that thirst. How can we do that?
Let's look at the Gospel to try and understand that… Most of the time when we hear this reading, we concentrate on the miracle that Jesus fed 5000… but there’s one line in there that you probably didn’t even notice, it’s so insignificant… it says, Jesus went to a deserted place… it means he went out into the middle of nowhere… and some translations even imply that it might have been a real desert… which means it was dry and uninhabitable… but the people followed him there anyway.
What would have happened if Jesus had decided to feed the 5000 in the middle of town? Well – for one thing, that’s not much of a miracle is it? I mean, everybody could just step into McDonald’s or Happy Hour and grab themselves a bite. In fact, they could just swing over a couple of blocks to their house or the house of a friend to raid the refrigerator. But no – Jesus chose this deserted place to perform this miracle… can you see why? Because the people were in the middle of nowhere and had NO way to fend for themselves, THAT made it OBVIOUS that this MUST be a miracle. The people had to be HUNGRY and they had to recognize that they had no way to feed themselves…. And THAT is what made them recognize this miracle.
I think you and I can apply this to our spiritual lives. If we stay at home or work or within our circle of friends, we’ll be comfortable…when we’re comfortable, we don’t need God. Most of us like to stay that way. We go from day to day and may never dig deep into our souls to think about what we need to change in our lives… to realize the deep thirst we have for God. Instead, we’re surrounded by salt-water – all the things in our lives that we think will quench our thirst for God, but in the end will only kill us from the inside.
Jesus went to a deserted place. The miracle of the 5000 happened in a deserted place. You and I cannot recognize our thirst for God if we remain surrounded by our salt-water lives. We have to step away. I strongly believe that EVERY Catholic should go to a desert place at least once a year. Every one of us should step out of our comfort zones – step out of our normal daily lives – and go somewhere away from the phones and computers and ball practices and work…. Away from all the distractions and lists of things to do – just to give Jesus a chance to show us how thirsty we really are. Jesus WANTS to give us a huge gulp of sweet water, but we keep ourselves so busy, we never even realize we’re thirsty.
Our adult formation team will be publishing some options for retreats, so watch for that in the bulletin. Also, we are considering offering a retreat right here for the parish. So if anybody wants to take me seriously and would be interested, let me know so we can figure out what the best format and timing would be.
Have you ever been working out in the hot sun in the yard or in the garden maybe...and suddenly you realize, man, I'm thirsty! You step into the shade for a second and grab the water jug and raise it to your lips....ahhhh....so sweet...so cool...so wet! Water never tasted so good as when we are really thirsty!
God wants to do that for us. He is waiting to quench our spiritual thirst...but first...we gotta learn to appreciate the water...and then we have to stop drinking the salt water.