What we think, say, do or do not do, has consequences for ourselves and others. The smallest act of kindness, like suggesting, as Jesus did in today’s Gospel, of giving someone a drink of water goes a long way. That may seem like a small and insignificant gesture, but according to Water.org, 844 million people do not have access to safe drinking water. That is equivalent to one out of every nine people on earth not having ready access to a drink of clean water. Women and girls are especially affected as they can spend up to six hours a day seeking and returning home with water.
Mni Wiconi is a Lakota phrase that means water is life. The phrase is a recognition of the sacredness of water and that water is the life blood for creation and those of us who walk on this earth. It has also become a rallying cry against the Dakota Access pipeline being built in North Dakota. The building of the pipeline and the very real threat of oil leaks and spills threaten sacred land and water resources coming not only from the Missouri River but any oil leakage could also dramatically impact the The Mni Wiconi Rural Water Supply System. This water resource covers a 150-mile area that begins at the Oahe Reservoir and ends at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Drinking water is provided by this system for some 25,000 plus tribal members as well as non-reservation communities.
Prior to the installation of the Mni Wiconi system in 2008, many suffered from health problems caused by contaminated water. The reality that there are people who do not have access to just the basic needs of survival, such as access to clean water or that it is threatened, or not corrected in a timely manner like those residents who have suffered in Flint, Michigan, is a unacceptable.
The most serious of sins in this regard is not bothering to care. Jesus shared clearly, as is recorded in Matthew (cf. chapter 25), that what we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to him. He also shared with Saul on the road to Damascus (cf. Acts 9), “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
God has created us such that we are interconnected with one another. How one thinks, speaks, and acts ripples out to touch all people and all creation. This is why Jesus uses such graphic, hyberbolic words in today’s Gospel, such as “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire” (Mk 9:41-50). Jesus does not literally mean that we are to cut off our hand or foot, or pluck out our eye, if we sin, but he is showing us the seriousness of our sin.
We can see the horrific affects at play in our fallen world. Life is hard, too many suffer from the effects of selfishness, pride, greed, abuse of power, and violence. May we resist contributing to or shutting ourselves off from the reality of abuse that is committed to the dignity of any person or our mother earth. When we engage in thoughts, words, and actions that are demeaning or dehumanizing; when we rationalize and justify behavior that goes against our Gospel values and our conscience; when we remain silent, we play a part in contributing to the condition of original sin that plagues our world, and we are going against God’s plan for what we pray for in the Our Father, “May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
We need to take a deep breath, slow down enough to sit still so that we can hear God in the silence of our hearts and be willing to allow Jesus to shine his light, that we may better see with the eyes of our conscience, better see the lies, the half-truths, and apparent goods that we have been allowing to have free reign in our life. As they are revealed, may we pluck them out, even the smallest of sins, and dash them on the rock of Christ.
No one is justified in belittling, demeaning, dehumanizing, or abusing anyone, for “it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mk 9:42). May we follow Jesus today and give someone in need some water to drink, literally as needed, and figuratively in the sense of being aware of the needs of others, by praying for and being present with concrete and practical support, while at the same time, holding those accountable who have harmed others in any way. Let us be better stewards and caretakers of each other, our water, our land, and natural resources. Mni Wiconi! Water is Life!