Do you want to know the worst sin? Betrayal,” the priest said in his homily as he reflected on the cup Christ invites us to drink in imitation of Him.

While on one hand my mind was pondering if this was indeed the worst sin, the other was considering moments of betrayal in my own life. In doing so, I was reminded, once again, how easy it is to be the victim, the wounded one. Betrayal, or any other sort of deep emotional pain, can leave an imprint hard to remove, as well as a deep sense of injustice. When wronged, it can be so simple to hang onto the knowledge that someone else is clearly, obviously in error. It can be a sort of comfort, cold though it may be, to know that this instance of betrayal is one where the other is on the wrong side of justice.

I have the blessing and, at times, the inconvenience of having a rather good memory. My sister has told me stories and when something similar comes up again, and I retell the story, she doesn’t even remember all of the details she shared. While far from infallible or complete, my memory is riddled with innumerable moments of life, stamped upon my mind. Some are beautifully grace-filled and others are achingly sharp and jagged. So when it comes to matters of betrayal or pain, I have a painfully accurate memory of words said, emotions felt, and the significance of the moment compounded by time. Add to this memory a heart which is so slow to forgive and perhaps the priest was right that betrayal is the worst thing you can do to me.

Recurrent throughout the Gospel is the call, or rather the command, to forgive. This was the thought during the priest’s homily which immediately followed my acknowledgement of the wounds of betrayal and injustice. Despite my desire for Christ’s words to be slightly more lenient or open to difficult situations, they are not. What my frail humanity wants is for Jesus to say, “Forgive others, unless it was really unjust” or “Forgive those who have wronged you, unless you think they haven’t fully understood the gravity of what they have done.” In my weakness, I want a caveat, a footnote, some indication that perhaps He doesn’t mean forgive always.

He does not give me these easy exits, but He does show what the act of loving forgiveness looks like. With arms stretched out on the cross and as He was mocked by His persecutors, Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who were in the act of killing Him. Without waiting for an apology or any glimmer of sincerity, Christ poured Himself out, generously, unconditionally, faithfully. My stance so often is one of arms crossed over my heart, bracing for impact, looking for a way to soften the blow, striving to ward off the spear which may come to injure my heart. It isn’t necessarily my desire to live this way; it simply seems safer than the unguarded way Christ models on the cross.

Last night, I was praying Evening Prayer and as I came to the Canticle of Mary, I was struck by the offered antiphon.

“The rich man, who had refused Lazarus a crust of bread, pleaded for a drop of water.”

Evening Prayer for Thursday in the 2nd Week of Lent

In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, I am little moved by the rich man who learns too late to be compassionate toward others. Until I consider how much I am like the rich man. As mirrored in so many of Christ’s stories and parables, I found myself confronting the large debt I want forgiven while not forgiving a much smaller debt. I considered the drink of water I long for without offering a bit of food to another in need. Despite the years and the difference in culture and tradition, the Lord’s words still make a vivid impression and point to the beautiful, irksome human heart with which we each wrestle.

If I want mercy, I must offer it.

Even knowing this conditional aspect of forgiveness and mercy, it is still such an arduous task to embrace. Even if the forgiveness is offered simply so that I may receive something I want, it is still a challenge to not focus on the injustice of it all or to lean into the wounded, victim mentality. It is humbling to let go of the moral high ground and to take the position of a penitent, petitioning the Lord for mercy from a place of squalor and weakness. None of us wants to be the rich man in the story, who finds out too late that his experience of suffering was entirely his own doing by not offering even a morsel of compassion to the one lying at his doorstep.

How oddly we are all bound up together as the Body of Christ! If only I needed to focus on the Lord, instead of on my fellow neighbor, how easy this life could be. Instead, I am continually confronted by my own weakness and the weaknesses of others. Instead of offering a path of just “me and Jesus,” we are each called to pull this messy, crazy world along with us, caring for those we’d rather not and offering forgiveness to those who have been unjust. Christ wants His whole body brought along and knowing our self-serving nature, He offers us His generous mercy to the degree we imitate Him. By intertwining our lives with all of bothersome humanity, He grants us merciful opportunity after merciful opportunity for us to have our rough edges smoothed, our hard hearts softened, and our closed fists opened.

I hope, dear reader, that someday we will get there.

We will arrive to the Heavenly banquet jagged edges smoothed out and with softened hearts and open hands. That we will be oddly grateful for the moments of suffering and pain born from the malice, indifference, and weakness of others because it gave us the opportunity to have our hearts stretched, torn, and widened, creating space for Christ to dwell in more richly.

I’m not there yet. I still balk at the task of forgiving and fight the compelling urge to focus on injustice inflicted rather than on my own weakness. But I want to get there. I want to spend my eternity in communion with others at a banquet, rather than isolated in a desert, thirsting and pleading for a drop of water which will never come.

Through the Lord’s limitless mercy, may I see you at that glorious, heavenly communal banquet someday.

From resentment or excessive preoccupation with the past,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being asked to give more than I have,
Deliver me, Jesus.

That You are with me in my suffering,
Jesus, I trust in You.
That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next,
Jesus, I trust in You.
That You give me the grace to accept forgiveness and to forgive others,
Jesus, I trust in You.
That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked,
Jesus, I trust in You.

Litany of Trust excerpts

Photo by rashid khreiss on Unsplash

One thought on “Pleading for a Drop of Water

  1. Trish I always eagerly wait for your next blog. This one really hit me where I struggle and one that I have a long ways to go and work on every day. Thank You and I pray I get there before I don’t have anytime left on this earth.


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