In this year’s Lenten reflection series, seven sisters offer their personal stories and insights on each of the Corporal Works of Mercy and how acts of mercy can have a profound impact on the lives of our sisters and brothers. Accompanying these reflections are line drawings by Sister Mary Clare Agnew, a contemporary of Catherine McAuley, which illustrate the Sisters of Mercy in ministry in 1830s Ireland. The reflection series also includes reflections for Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Easter.
By Sister Ana María Siufi, Pastoral and Social Services Ministry, General Roca, Argentina
The Works of Mercy remind us that each being has rights that must be met. I believe that is why they all begin with the exhortation-GIVE: not crumbs, but concrete answers to basic necessities of life.
“If you knew…who it is that asks you for a drink…” And the woman said, “Sir, give me this water.” Jn. 4
It is not uncommon for someone to come to my house thirsty and ask me for a glass of water or bottles of water, because the water supply in their neighborhood has been cut off. Often when it is very hot, they can spend weeks getting up at four in the morning, when there is a trickle of water in their bathroom to shower or they are depending on family, friends or a truck that leaves them water three or four times a week. They are lucky if they are not charged for it. Also, a neighbor’s dog, who is neglected, comes asking me for water, drinking it from a faucet that I have on the patio. Meanwhile, water is becoming the privilege of a few who waste it without measure or decide on extractive policies that destroy watersheds with impunity.
Many of us wonder if the water distribution network in this city is safe. We believe that it is not clean enough, since our rivers receive chemicals from oil exploitation and toxins from agricultural production that are impossible to eliminate in the purification system.
We know that more than half of the world’s population lacks potable water or safe sanitation, which kills more than 5 million people a year or causes serious diseases.
“Give me a drink,” demand millions of women and children who have to walk many hours a day to get some water. “Give me a drink,” ask the migrants forced to walk in the desert. “Give me a drink,” ask so many lands desertified by deforestation and fires. “Give me a drink,” say the communities whose water sources have been contaminated with heavy metals from mining or with waste from so many irresponsible industries. It is the anguished cry of those who recognize that water is sacred, because it sustains life from the fecundity of rivers, the majesty of seas and oceans, the transparency of mountain lakes, the strength of waterfalls, the silence of snowfalls or the strength of storms.
An urgent way to live the mandate of Mercy is to fight so that the right to water is assured in our neighborhood, our region and for all humanity, preventing it from being just another commodity for business, privatization and war.
Rights, justice and mercy are expressed in our active desire for a grand Table of Life where there is room for all and everyone receives what they need. We are urged to cry out and act with indignation and love with and for those who are discarded, silenced and socially, economically and politically excluded, to put an end to the peace and celebration of those who want a small table to give everything to a few.
May the God of Life give us a more attentive ear to listen to and join those who claim their right to clean and safe water and defend the rivers for their community, and may all water remind us of the solidarity and the human commitment to take care of, protect and share this sacred treasure, this sacrament of life of all beings.
Thank you, FatherMother, for the water of each day and for the courage of those who have been persecuted to the point of giving their lives to defend it. Amen