I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best at recycling. I do great with paper and glass and aluminum cans. But I occasionally forget my canvas bags at the grocery store and I’m usually pretty confused with all the different kinds of plastics. So I cheat. And since reading that we ship most of our plastics to China via diesel-powered container ships, I’ve stopped feeling so guilty about that part of it anyway. But one thing that I’m very passionate about preserving and protecting is water.
It’s not necessarily because I’m a country girl who grew up seeing how important clean water is for crops and animals. That’s important, sure. But it was during a retreat week about 20 years ago that everything I thought I knew about water was radically changed for me. The priest who was leading the retreat was also a professor of chemistry and he explained a lot of spiritual truths with science examples. Without getting too technical (and because I’m not very technical anyway) let’s start with Creation. When God made the earth and the seas, He made all the water that there ever has been. And since then, all that water since Creation has been recycled over and over again through rain, evaporation, snow, steam, freezing and thawing, etc. over and over again. Yes, some small amounts of the hydrogen and oxygen that make up water may have been sidelined into other matter, but for the most part, the water that God created is still the water we see in our rivers and oceans, in the snow and ice on the mountains and in the glaciers and even in the ice cubes in our soft drinks.
So imagine you’re standing on the bank of the Jordan River and you watch as Jesus allows His cousin, John the Baptist, to baptize Him in the flowing water. As the Jordan River moves past Jesus, it’s forever changed, forever transformed by the presence of Christ within it. As it flows into the Sea of Galilee, it changes it forever, too. Finally, the water that touched Jesus flows into the Dead Sea. With no outlet, its waters escape by evaporation, rising as water vapor into clouds and eventually falling as rain somewhere else. Since that day at the Jordan, the water transformed forever by the touch of Christ has been raindrops and snowflakes and clouds, all over the world, many times. For me, Jesus’ baptism sanctified all our water, in all its forms.
Certainly the Lord used the things of the earth to teach, to heal, and to draw us to Himself. Most especially, He uses wine and bread to become His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. While that glass of water in your hand isn’t a Sacrament, for me, it’s still a holy reminder of Jesus’ presence in the world, and in my life. He is present, not just in prayer, or in Church, but as intimately close to us as the air that we breathe and the water that we drink. One of my favorite Saints, St. Catherine of Siena, said it this way: “God is closer to us than water is to a fish.” What a wonderful image of our loving Father! He surrounds and supports us as the Giver and Sustainer of our lives, at every moment.
I’ll forever be grateful for that retreat so many years ago. It made me look at the natural world differently, with more reverence and more gratitude. Jesus left His throne in heaven to live here with us, to grow up in a human family, to love His human friends, and to make us His children through His death and resurrection. I’m grateful that a simple glass of water can remind me of His nearness and love.
“If God spoke creation into existence, should we be surprised when creation speaks back to us about God?”