Predicting the Weather

A special person in my life is a six-year-old boy named Anthony. Anthony and his three brothers have adopted Charlotte and me as “Ama” and “Papa,” honorary grandparents, and since we are part of the same parish and live only a couple blocks apart, we get to see them often.

Back to Anthony: this little boy has an uncanny ability to “predict” the weather. He will look out of the window or go outside and tell you that it is going to rain, or that there will be a storm, and will insist upon it even when it doesn’t seem likely. Then sure enough, right on cue, the rain or the storm will begin. Not only does Anthony have an awareness to all things meteorological, he is deeply connected spiritually. How I love to watch him in the Mass. He takes in everything from the procession of the Cross, the altar servers, and the priest celebrant to the final benediction. You can hear Anthony’s childish voice singing the “Gloria” and the “Alleluia” over those around him. And he actively recites the “Our Father” and the Creed. And when Mass is over the first thing that Anthony does is go see “Father,” the priest who celebrated the Mass that day.

I thought of my dear Anthony when I heard the Gospel reading this morning from St. Luke’s chapter 12:54–56, a most interesting and perplexing chapter.

Signs of the Times. He also said to the crowds, “When you see [a] cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain—and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot—and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

Little Anthony may have his eyes on the clouds in the sky, but he also models for me a “little one” who has his eyes on Jesus and the wonderful gifts available for us to be most effective for our Lord in the present time.

Of all people Christians, as Jesus said, should be those who are alert and aware and are able to interpret the present time. That is a challenge for all of us. We live, breathe and ingest our milieu. It is difficult to separate ourselves from influences, opinions and attitudes that we share with the rest of our culture. In some cases Christians have been shamed into believing that they have to march in lockstep with the prevailing attitudes, because to do other, is insensitive, unkind, even hateful. Try to express a conviction that you hold because of your commitment to the Church and Sacred Scripture and watch the fur fly and the insults begin.

That, of course, does not mean Christians should not exercise compassion and kindness, yes we must. We are called to love, yet we are also called to speak the truth. All love and no truth makes us insipid and useless in a world that desperately needs a dose of salt and light. It makes me realize that I can be an expert, or up to date, on all the trivia, all the gossip, even that the Duchess of Sussex forgot to remove a price tag from her dress, and be of no good to the world around me, because I would have failed to “interpret the present time.”

I hear Jesus say, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:33 NABRE). We don’t know when the time will come to speak a word, share a material resource with another, give witness of our faith, be confronted with a trial or a temptation, or most importantly to go to meet our Lord. Be watchful. Be alert. Read the signs of the present moment you are in. May the Holy Spirit guide us! Thank you little Anthony for teaching me!

A Snowy Day in New York City

It’s snowing and blowing in New York City. We’re expected to receive up to a foot of snow from winter storm Niko–a day after it was 63 degrees! Up one day, down the next. The weather can be a metaphor for life. There’s always weather, that’s a constant. But the weather conditions vary: hot, cold, warm, chilly, wet, dry, rainy, snowy, windy, you get it! It’s like when we say we have a temperature. We know that we mean that our temperature is elevated or not normal, but we always have a temperature, even when we “assume room temperature” as they say. So the weather (life) is constant, but the conditions of the weather (life) vary from day to day and from experience to experience.

Now I’m about to confess something about myself, my age and the impact that has upon how I view weather and life. I turned 60 on my last birthday. Unfortunately it harder to hide that fact from a physical standpoint, but inside, where it really counts, I don’t feel like I’ve lived six decades. Yet I believe the passing decades gives a perspective on life that I didn’t or couldn’t have when I was of “millennial” age. Just like the weather, life is always present. Sometimes it’s happy, sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s difficult, sometimes it breezes by like a warm summer day as you sit on the front porch drinking lemonade. When was the last time you did that?

So weather comes and weather goes. By next winter we will have forgotten Niko and its impact. Now here comes the “old man” talk. Life comes and goes as well. Back in the 70s, after Watergate, in the middle of the oil crisis and gas prices zooming up to 55 cents a gallon and President Carter’s “malaise” speech, we wondered if it could get any worse. It got better and it got worse and life happened.

Over the past couple months, and especially over the past few weeks I have heard people I know and love express two different opinions that could be taken from the opening words of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. “It is the best of times!” “It is the worst of times.” Without going into all that both opinions are basing their statement on, I want to add what I believe is something that is as certain as weather and life: “It is time to redeem the time.” I am reminded of St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.” While that may sound pessimistic to some, and even optimistic to others, these are serious words to consider at all times. If you, as I, have declared allegiance to Jesus Christ, we have a mission. We are 1) to watch carefully how we live, 2) to live wisely not as one who is foolish, 3) to make the most of every opportunity, and 4) to remember that even with the best of efforts we are not going to make “heaven on earth.” Instead we are called to listen and follow the One who gave himself for us and shows us how to live.

This morning in my devotional reading I can across this quote from Blessed Charles de Foucauld who was a French Catholic priest who lived among the Tuareg people in the Algerian Sahara desert. In 1916 he was assassinated outside the door of the fort he built for the protection of the Tuareg, a semi-nomadic Muslim people. This is what Foucauld said: “We must stand up for the rights of our neighbor who is suffering from injustice; we must defend them all the more vigorously because we see Jesus present in them. Sure this is our duty because of our love for others for his sake. We have no right to be ‘sleeping watchmen’ or dumb watch-dogs. Whenever we see evil we must sound the alarm.”

What must I do? I must watch carefully how I live, following Jesus and not the whims and wishes of the day. I must be wise and not believe everything I hear because that would be foolish. I must make every opportunity to love and support those who don’t have a voice or can’t be heard. I must remember that my worst day is infinitesimally better than many people’s best day.