In a recent channel-surf search for mindless television entertainment, I came across The Waterboy. You might recall some of the preposterous and comical scenes in which Adam Sandler as the Waterboy learns about life from his Mama, played by Kathy Bates. She tries to indoctrinate him to her way of thinking: “Foosball is the devil…School is the devil…Astronomy is the devil…Ben Franklin and Vicky Valencourt are the devil, and Colonel Sanders, too…” Her list of devils seems endless. Unfortunately, some Catholics—from bishops to priests to people in the pews—adhere to her catechism: “Contraception is the devil…Stem-cell research is the devil…Gay people are the devil…Divorced people who remarry are the devil…President Biden is the devil…Going to communion without first going to confession is the devil…”
Fortunately, Vicky Valencourt intervenes to help Bobby Boucher (AKA Waterboy) overcome the narrow-minded, judgmental, condemnatory moral thinking of his Mama; and he, in turn, helps the Mud Dog’s Coach Klein face his fears and overcome obstacles on the football field. With the help of Bobby’s obsession with H2O—highlighted after he takes a cheap-shot knock-out hit in the New Year’s Day Classic Bourbon Bowl and is revived by some high-quality agua—the Waterboy leads an amazing comeback and saves the day as the fans cheer him on: “You can do it!” The Waterboy taps into something that all humanity knows: that the earth is mostly water, that the human body is mostly water, that we each have an innate pull toward water, and that water is life.
Of course, as we Christians also know, there is no more high-quality H2O than the waters of baptism. Our Judeo-Christian stories of creation tell us that life emerged from the vast, vague, and vacuous void of non-existence as The Holy Spirit hovered over the chaotic waters bringing order to the disorder of pre-natal planetary existence. Then God breathed life into humanity and made water a sign of both life and death: from the days of Noah and the great flood, the days of Moses and the crossing of the Red Sea from slavery to freedom, the days of John’s baptisms in the Jordan River where our Savior emerged out of water into new life, and that day on which Christ poured forth water and blood upon Calvary’s Cross, to our days. Sacred water destroys the devil. The living waters of Christ’s love refreshes, renews, revives, replenishes, and restores us to Him. It is, indeed, some high-quality H2O!
As the Bible instructs us to be not afraid, the world could do with fewer Coach Kleins, who live in fear, while the church could operate better with fewer Mamas, who condemn and vilify everything in their path. At the same time, we could benefit from more Bobby Bouchers, who celebrate the life-giving water that unites us with creation, the earth, one another, and God, and more Vicky Valencourts who help put a stop to dangerous, destructive, narrow-minded thinking. Much as Bobby relied less and less on what Mama says, so are faithful Catholics relying less and less on what Mother-Church says. As water is the source and font of life and sacrament, so do we understand that Jesus, the living water, is the fount and source of all that we believe. Let’s cheer on a healthier, holier, victorious church: “You can do it!”