Fr. Richard's Sunday Homily, January 7, 2018
Sunday after Theophany
The Gift of Water and the Holy Spirit

Epistle: Ephesians 4:7-13  
Gospel: Matthew 4:12-17  

There’s a lot of talk about water during the Feast of Theophany. Water—so plain, so ordinary it seems to us, but that is certainly not true. Pure water is neither acidic, nor base, but it is still the most effective solvent we have on the planet. Water is the only compound, the ONLY compound that exists as a solid, liquid or gas in its ordinary, natural conditions. Hot water freezes faster than cold water, but nobody can explain why that is so. Water helps to regulate the temperature of the planet, but it also regulates the temperatures of our own bodies. Water carries oxygen and nutrients to all our cells, it cushions our joints, it protects our vital organs and it carries off our waste material. There is no life without water. None.

Now think about the cycle and movement of water on our planet. First there is evaporation, where the warmth of the sun causes water to turn into vapor and it rises into the atmosphere to form clouds. Then there is condensation, where that water cools down and turns back into liquid. After that there is precipitation, where water falls from the clouds in the form of rain, snow, sleet or hail. Then, finally, collection, where the fallen water collects in oceans, lakes, rivers and streams. And the process continues. There is a continuous cycle of water movement across the planet. There is no new water being made anywhere, and there is no water being destroyed. The same water that has been moving on the earth and in the skies for millions and millions of years is the same water that we are seeing and using today. And because of that, it is not impossible to imagine that we may have drunk or touched some of the water molecules that were poured over Jesus at His baptism in the Jordan. If you recall on Christmas eve I mentioned that in one square cubic inch of water there are 6 x 1023 molecules of H2O. In one cubic inch, 6 times 10 with 23 zeros after it, that many molecules of water in that tiny little space. Water comes close to being described as “awesome.”

We were changed forever by water—by water and the Holy Spirit when we were baptized. We were given the gift of God’s own divine life through immersion or the pouring of water. No longer simply natural human beings, we became the very and true supernatural children of God, heirs to His kingdom, gifted with His love and called to His holiness. What we could never deserve has been freely and lavishly granted to us.

Now, for the most part, I think it is fair to say that we take water for granted. Around the world it is estimated that women spend 200 million hours every day hauling water from rivers, lakes and streams to their homes. Women carry the water because as the lifeblood of the family they make that great sacrifice. 200 million hours every day! How many hours have we spent this week hauling water? In sub-Saharan Africa, the daily use of water is 2-5 gallons per person…per person, every day. In Europe it is 50 gallons per person every day. In America, it is 100 gallons. I think it’s safe to say we take water for granted.

I think it’s also safe to say that we often take for granted the divine life which came to us by water and the Spirit. The life which John the Baptist could not receive has been given to us, and yet we find it difficult so many times to appreciate this awesome gift we have been given, and instead we focus on a life lived simply as natural creatures.

In these days when we seem to fail to grasp what is truly awesome, what is truly life-giving, what is truly the victory over the power of death, we have turned to science and technology all too often, to instruct us as to how we should live, how we should think and what is valuable or unimportant in our lives. If you go to any airport you will see the constant search being conducted by people looking for electrical outlets to plug into so that they can recharge their phones or laptops. Even most airplanes now have electrical outlets for the same purpose. Now, of course I am not against the wise use of technology, nor am I criticizing people who need to charge their devices. But I think it’s an honest question to ask: are we really using technology or are we in fact the servants of technology? How much are we in love with, in need of, the temporary, the superficial, the entertaining, the ego-oriented offerings of cyber-space? If we could not recharge and plug in, how would we live? What would we love? Who would we serve?

Today, we call the ordinary “awesome”, and we declare the superficial to be “perfect.” We no longer seem to know what is awesome or perfect. It’s like an endless quest to find what is new, and seemingly better and improved, what is more engaging, without stopping to think that tomorrow all of that will be old and out of date, and not realizing that we are giving ourselves over to what is temporary and superficial. Do we really want to stand on the shifting sands of the materialistic culture of our time and hope it holds us up? Or will we barely notice, since our attention is focused on the next thing we are being offered?

Everybody loved Sister Mary Magdalen and Sister Mary Diana. Why? It was not because they were perfect people. It was because their lives were grounded in living in God’s divine life. Why is Mother Teresa so highly admired and praised? It’s not just because she did great charitable work. It’s because people saw in her God’s own divine life, even if they did not realize what they were seeing. Why did the 21 young Coptic men in Libya two years ago submit to execution rather than convert to the Muslim religion? They valued God’s life more than their life in this world. They died believing in the gift of water and the Spirit.

Up here today, we have water. Blessed water. It looks and tastes exactly like tap water. But I suggest that when we drink it this morning, we ask the Lord to help us, however He chooses, to help us live in His own life. If we do not desire that, then what is it that we want, and who is it that we live for?