A Lesson From The Grateful Dead

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty, if your cup is full, may it be again. Let it be known there is a fountain that was not made by the hands of men. (Ripple, The Grateful Dead)

The song “Ripple,” by the rock band The Grateful Dead, has been around for a long time, over 50 years, but I became familiar with it just recently. It’s one of the iconic songs of the Grateful Dead, a combination of a catchy, earworm-worthy tune, and intriguing, almost inscrutable lyrics. One commentator said, “Ripple is about making peace with life, and finding a path that suits you by learning from the other lost people around you, and of course embracing the power of joy through music.”
The words that caught my attention, though, were these: “Let it be known there is a fountain that was not made by the hands of men.” Although the Grateful Dead doesn’t usually deal with religious themes, for a believer, the reference to a fountain “not made by the hands of men” clearly points to God.
The concept of God as a fountain is not new. In Psalm 36 we read, “How precious is your love, O God; From your delightful stream you give us drink, for with you is the fountain of life.” (Ps 36: 8-10) And the image is fulfilled in Jesus who said, “Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4: 14)
The lesson is this: whatever needs you have, even the most serious, can be met by turning to God, turning to Jesus with faith and trust. You need healing for a troubled conscience; or from a serious mistake of the past; or to be free of the torment of temptation and sin; or to be lifted from the pit of anxiety, fear and depression? In every case, God is the answer.
But how do we find the mercy and forgiveness of God? Well, in the silence of our hearts in personal prayer; by reading and carefully listening to the Word of God; in a devout reception of the sacraments, especially Confession and Holy Communion; and by asking the intercession of our Blessed Mother, Mary, who never fails her children.
So, don’t hesitate! Whatever your need, turn to God, turn to Jesus. Drink freely from “the fountain that was not made by the hands of men.”
Something to think about: What is your most pressing personal or spiritual need right now?