Holy Water and the Marginalized
This weekend, severe storms crossed Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. It rained like vengeance, then stormed. A tornado passed through Mississippi and killed 10 people.
Water gives us life and then kills us. Usually the poorest people – people who don’t have proper shelter from the storm. People living on the literal margins in Indonesia when a tsunami hits, and elderly city-lovers who try to survive Katrina because they have no where else to go.
God sent a rainbow to tell Noah he would never destroy the earth again by flood. To be clear, the Noah’s Ark flood was the worst disaster in the history of the world. (Like 2012, the movie. Although I don’t know if by disaster I mean the flood in that film or the film itself.)
But God never said anything about New Orleans.
Holy water is water sanctified by a priest (or by a spiritual leader in other religions. Sikhs and Hindus also have a connection to holy water.)
In Roman Catholicism, the water serves as purification – through baptism and as a protector from evil and temptation.
Could a priest not have purified Katrina before she hit? Run out to the tsunami in Southeast Asia and prayed over it? Certainly that must have been what Jesus did when he calmed the storm. He turned it into holy water, obedient to him and as still as a baptismal font. Surely Noah would approve.
Some people take Noah’s story very literally. They are quick to blame people for natural disasters. Homosexuals, women, foreigners. Christians and Muslims and Jews, we all make up reasons. A lot of times the people blamed are the very ones hit hardest by the storms – the wanderers, the most vulnerable: If water is a symbol of purification, after all, then perhaps these horrible hurricanes are a sign of our moral filthiness. (Well, their moral filthiness, whoever those sinners are.)
But what if instead we could see the storms as a massive baptism into something – into need, into poverty, into death. A drowning in heaps of holy water, and a call to arms for Christians to rush the flooded places and receive the storm-tossed peoples?
Have you been close to or survived a very bad storm? What did it feel like going through it?
What are some ways that the Church, corporately or individually, can be of service to people who are victims of natural disasters?