In the seventh grade, I did my first large paper. The topic was how to predict the weather. To this day I can recall how to forecast the weather from simple observation. Before the days when we could switch on the Morning News to find out the weather or check a weather app, our ancestors used their senses. For example, the leaves of maple and oak trees react to the sudden increase in humidity prior to heavy rain and often turn upward. When the wind is switching back and forth, leading clouds to move in different directions across the sky, we can be sure that weather changes are on the way.
Of course, we all know the rhyme: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s take warning.”
Despite the fact that we often bemoan how inaccurate the weather reports can be, we still check the weather regularly and make our decisions about travel and clothing accordingly.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus spoke some direct and challenging words to the crowds. “You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky, why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
Was Jesus trying to shake up the crowd so they would learn more and think about things more clearly? Even though I remember some of that science paper from seventh grade, I am famous for going out ill prepared for the weather. I forget to bring an umbrella. I put on a sweater instead of a coat. You get the idea. Is this because I don’t have any idea how to look out the window, check an app, or find the 10-day weather forecast online? I know how to do all these things. I’m just scatter-brained when it comes to the weather.
Jesus, in the same way, didn’t diagnose the crowds as not understanding what was happening “in the present time.” It’s not that the people couldn’t figure out that Jesus was the Messiah, that all the prophesies pointed to him, that he spoke with an authority that even the religious leaders didn’t have. Instead, Jesus called them “hypocrites.” We call someone a hypocrite who knows what is right or true but lives in denial of what they know to be right and true. Jesus was saying to them that just as they could interpret the signs of the earth and sky and forecast the weather, they did understand that he had come from God (so much so that the leaders determined very quickly they needed to kill him). They understood, but they were not willing to acknowledge and to accept he had been sent by God. To accept Jesus as the Messiah, to sit at his feet as Mary, to follow him closely as the Twelve, to be personally transformed by his parables and teachings and invitations to conversion like Zacchaeus would change them forever. This they could not accept.
There is certainly not much damage that will happen from walking in the rain without an umbrella or getting chilly because I didn’t check in advance how cold it really was outside. More serious, however, is not living what I know, acting on what I believe, choosing what has been chosen by God for me. The rest of this Gospel reading clearly lays out the risk of hypocrisy, of being too lazy to care about living the Gospel, of being too absorbed with the things of this earth that the Lord takes second place in our interests and in our love.
I don’t believe Jesus spoke these words to the crowd with harshness or anger. The heart of the Master was too great, his love for them and for us is a love that led him eventually to the cross for our salvation. I hear in his words a determined effort to make them see what is right before their eyes. How many times Jesus has to shake us up, remind us of what we know, and then prod us forward to accept what he is revealing to us that we might allow our life to be changed.
Jesus, I commit my entire self to you, every moment of my life, every breath, every thought, every desire, every word, every action. Break through my ignorance, my blindness, my unwillingness. Attract me so strongly to yourself that in a short time I will find myself renewed, created anew, transformed in surprising ways. Amen.
Praying with this passage of Scripture
Lectio Divina is a way of listening to God as he speaks in his Word. It is a practice of communicating with God through Scripture and attending to God’s presence and what he wishes to tell us. In this slow and prayerful reading of the Word of God, we allow ourselves to be transformed by the Spirit who forms us into the image of Christ.
There are four movement in Lectio Divina: Read (lectio), Meditate (meditation), Pray (oratio), Contemplate (contemplation).
Begin by finding a still space to pray. Breathe deeply and become quieter within. Abandon any agenda, worries or thoughts you bring to this prayer and entrust these things to the merciful care of God. Ask for the grace to be receptive to what God will speak to you through this Scripture reading. Grant me, Jesus Divine Master, to be able to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God and your unfathomable riches. Grant that your word penetrate my soul; guide my steps, and brighten my way till the day dawns and darkness dissipates, you who live and reign forever and ever Amen.
Begin by slowly and meditatively reading your Scripture passage out loud. Listen for a particular word or phrase that speaks to you at this moment and sit with it for a time.
He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time.
“Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Meditate (meditatio) – Read the same passage a second time. As you re-engage the text, let the word or phrase that stood out become your invitation to speak from your heart with God who wishes to share his heart with you. Allow this word or phrase to wash over you and permeate your thoughts and feelings. You may wish to repeat this phrase quietly and gently for a period of time.
Pray (oratio) – Read the text a third time. Listen for what God is saying to you. Speak heart to heart with God. Notice the feelings that this conversation with God raises up within you. Share with God what you notice about your response to this conversation. You may wish to return to repeating the phrase quietly and gently, allowing it to permeate you more and more deeply.
Read the text a final time. Now be still and rest in God’s embrace. Ask God to give you a gift to take with you from this prayer. You might ask God if he is inviting you to do some action, for instance, make some change in your thoughts, attitudes or reactions, in the way you speak or how you treat others. Thank God for this gift and invitation as you conclude your prayer.
Photo Credit: Pixabay