Satisfying physical and spiritual thirst
Corporal: Giving drink to the thirsty
Spiritual: Counseling the doubtful
"To give drink to the thirsty" might seem to be the simplest of the corporal works of mercy. Yet, the Old Testament gives it great importance, saying, if you give a cold drink to a prophet, you get a prophet’s reward.
Jesus backed that up in the New Testament by saying, when we show this kindness to others, we do it for him.
Think of all the opportunities we have to give drink to the thirsty. It is part of good hospitality to ask if our company would like something to drink. At our recent fish fry, the table servers kept the water glasses full for our guests.
When I was a kid, one of my jobs was to bring a thermos of cold water to the workers in the hay field.
Thirst also can be understood in a figurative sense.
There is an old saying, "you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink." This can help us understand the spiritual work of mercy, "to counsel the doubtful." We can offer others good advice, but it is up to them whether they will "drink it in."
The word doubtful means, full of doubts. Maybe the key is to offer encouragement, rather than trying to tell the other person what to do.
To impart courage to another is quite an art. Somehow, we need to point out the gifts that each person has from God and then stir those gifts to action.
For example, let’s say that a friend is beginning a new job and is doubtful whether he/she can do it. We can offer counsel (good advice) by saying, "You have a caring heart. That will help you serve the people in your new job."
This actually happened to me as a priest when I was in my first assignment at St. Cecilia Parish in Omaha. I was overwhelmed by the thought of teaching theology to the freshman class in the high school.
I went to the pastor, the late Father Paul Peter, and said, "I don’t think I am cut out to be a teacher. I don’t have enough training to go into the classroom."
Father Peter very wisely asked me whether I loved the Good News. He also asked me whether I cared about the students. When I said "yes" to both questions, he said, "Well, all you have to do is get them together."
I have been following that advice for the past 43 years.
Father James Kramper is pastor of parishes St. Peter de Alcántara in Ewing, St. John the Baptist in Deloit Township in rural Holt County and St. Theresa of Avila, Clearwater.