by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
On Sunday, January 10, four days after the horrendous attack on the Capitol building—and ten days before the inauguration of Joe Biden as president—I knew that the homily at Masses had to speak to these dramatic and uncertain moments.
One principal note in the readings for that day, Feast of Jesus’s Baptism in the Jordan River, was water. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah began with the well-known divine invitation: “All you who are thirsty, come to the water.” It was clear, then, that these scriptural references had to underscore what was preached. I offer here, for better or for worse, my own words last Sunday. I was surprised at how short it was (although St. Francis of Assisi instructed us to “keep our words short”), but I felt I had said what needed to be said.
The River Jordan remains a metaphor for all the healing powers of water—physical and spiritual.
Today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah implicitly points to this: “All you who are thirsty come to the water.” He is referring both to physical thirst as well as spiritual.
The physical value of water is familiar—it slakes our thirsts, it cleanses, it is vital for our bodily life. The spiritual value of water is equally vital: we remember Jesus’s words to the Samaritan woman at the well, a non-Jew, an outsider: “The water that I shall give you will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The spiritual power of water also has a social application. The water that Jesus promises helps us to live what St. Paul urged early Christians to do and has enormous relation with the events of this week in Washington. Paul said: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think of these things.”
These are the values that have been under attack in our country in these years, beginning at the very top of our political structures which culminated in the tragedy and horror of last Wednesday at the Capitol building.
Contrary to the values that result from the water which Jesus gives, we have been subjected to:
insulting attitudes toward those who “don’t look like us,” lies, exaggerated individualism, racism and violence.
Conclusion—We are called as never before to be witnesses to those things which the living water offers: “Honor, justice, purity, graciousness, loveliness, excellence and all that is worthy of praise.” Witnesses in our own lives and activities in the circles we frequent and in our communities.
Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.