The second corporal work of mercy might seem redundant, but is in fact a separate work of mercy. “To give drink to the thirsty” is similar to the action of “feeding the hungry,” but addresses a different need of the body and is not easily accomplished. There are many parts of the world, even in our own country, where fresh drinking water is scarce or impossible to find.
To highlight this need, let’s look at the crisis that is facing those in different parts of Africa:
“Every day in rural communities and poor urban centers throughout sub-Saharan Africa, hundreds of millions of people suffer from a lack of access to clean, safe water.
“Women and girls especially bear the burden of walking miles at a time to gather water from streams and ponds - full of water-borne disease that is making them and their families sick.
“Illness from drinking dirty water and the time lost fetching it robs entire communities of their futures.
“Hope is put on hold in over half of the developing world's primary schools without access to water and sanitation.” (The Water Project)
To address this need organizations like The Water Project and Jason Jones’ I am Whole Life have spent their time and energy drilling wells in communities throughout Africa. This has provided an essential service to the poor of Africa who are literally dying of thirst or dirty drinking water.
However, we do not need to go farther than our own home to “give drink to the thirsty.” I know from personal experience that the quality of water in American homes is extremely poor. For example, after moving outside of the city limits we discovered that our well water was full of iron. Not only did it stain our sinks, but also drinking it gave us headaches and made us sick. In a few months we were able to resolve the issue, but it made us realize that we can’t take clean drinking water for granite.
Even water in the cities is becoming an issue, especially with the prevalence of hormonal birth control. LifeSiteNews reported on this new phenomenon a few years ago and gave a stark report:
“When used therapeutically in contraceptive pills or in hormone replacement treatments for menopause, these synthetic hormones make their way into the water supply after being excreted in the patients’ urine. As environmental contaminants, these are referred to as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), due to the fact that they interfere with the endocrine systems of humans and animals alike following exposure….
“One study focused on the effects of exposure to the progestin Levonorgestrel (LNG) on the frog Xenopus tropicalis. While the male reproductive system did not appear to be impaired, female tadpoles exhibited severe defects in the development of their ovaries and oviducts, rendering them sterile.”
This means women across the globe could become sterile from drinking their own tap water!
In the end, “giving drink to the thirsty” is a multi-faceted work of mercy and has eternal consequences. As humans, we must not deny that we have bodies and have a duty to care for it. Having clean water impacts our bodily health, which then impacts every aspect of our spiritual life. It affects how we pray and how often we pray.
So the next time we take a drink of water, let us remember the duty we have to make clean water available to everyone, at home and abroad.