Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the wake of global climate change, we are witnessing more and more weather anomalies outside the parameters we have learned to accept over the years. Hurricane season and flood season in the past for instance went from June to November at least in the east. Wildfire season went from May to October out west. Snow season which is remarkably both the season for dangerous winter storms and the season for popular winter sports went from December to March give or take. Tornado season in the gulf region would peak in early spring; in the southern plains in May and June; in the northern plains and upper Midwest in June and July; and in the southwest in the fall and winter. But tornadoes can happen all year round depending on certain weather conditions. And with more advanced weather predicting technology, devastating loss and destruction can at least be prevented or decreased. But weather patterns are shifting with alarming consequences. And it seems no region is entirely safe.

But after every devastating weather event, people will assess the damage and have to decide what happens next. Often in the news, government officials will visit and console residents with promises of assistance for those most severely affected and support for rebuilding damaged homes and businesses. And each time without fail, the camera will pan the landscape in a parting shot to reveal the extent of the damage, of empty spaces where massive structures once stood amid broken trees and light posts.

There’s no avoiding severe weather especially since civilized societies decided to set aside the nomadic lifestyle and establish permanent dwellings. We still have semi-nomadic communities, but the great majority of homes designated as mobile aren’t by any stretch of the imagination. And as the housemaid Martha in the Secret Garden sings to the orphan Mary Lennox, “It’s the storm, not you, that’s bound to blow away,” so we come to the realization that even storms and crises will pass, but after brushing off the dust and debris, after taking stock of our losses and gains, we will still be here to face a new day. But our resilience is partly determined by the firmness of our convictions going into the storm. We might be badly shaken but if we are firmly rooted in truths that endure, we can retain a sense of purpose and a clarity of vision.

The prophet Jeremiah uses some interesting imagery to describe one who trusts in God. “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes; its leaves stay green; in the year of drought, it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.” A tree rooted in life-giving water will survive through heat and drought. So, one firmly rooted in God will weather any storm.

St. Paul even in his day seems to be dealing with misinformation. If we don’t believe there is a God, then how can you root yourself in him? Certainly we who claim to believe in God because we have experienced his goodness, because we have experienced his mercy, perhaps because we have experienced challenges and crises, and through those experiences have known God who is merciful, we can continue to place our trust in him.

In any stage of life peril and loss will stop us in our tracks, grab us by the throat, make our knees buckle, and force us to reevaluate our priorities. And we know people who are models of enduring trust and confidence in God. They may not know themselves where this strength comes from, and they will never admit a deep and unshakeable faith. But survivors seldom ever admit complete self-reliance. They often talk of calling on God in the depths of their darkness and despair, convinced their deliverance is entirely in God’s hands.

As I examine my experience of trust in people, I can point to ordinary instances that helped to provide a solid foundation for trust in God. From a very early age, I learned to trust my parents and family, that they would be present to me, caring and dependable, supportive in my time of need, understanding and patient with my stubbornness and immaturity. They may not always have welcomed the opportunity to deal with me especially when I was difficult, but they did eventually and I was willing to trust that they would not give up on me. From an experience of simple trust in those at home, I ventured to trust in others outside home, my peers, teachers, civic authority, moral leadership. And then I nurtured in myself a degree of trustworthiness that invited others to take a chance on me. It was a rudimentary faith, a very human experience of faith. If I can believe in the goodness of my parents, my family, and my friends, I can trust them willingly. I have experienced their goodness in the past. Trust is the courage to believe such goodness will continue in the present and in the future.

So, it is with trust in God. Before we can put trust in God, we have first to believe that God’s goodness is fundamental. We can reflect on God’s presence and involvement in our lives, in our experience of the world around us, in our relationships with those we love, in understanding to some degree that Jesus Christ plays a vital role in the human story of which we are a part. And even when it doesn’t all make sense, we can rely upon what we perceive to be manifestations of God’s goodness in our past, that it is not all chance or coincidence. And if we can make that mental leap into what we do not know for certain or totally understand, we have made that leap into faith. Then God is real, and we can trust the one in whom we believe.

So, when we ponder the beatitudes and woes that Jesus proclaims in the gospel we should not look at poverty, hunger, grief, and persecution necessarily as blessings while prosperity, contentment, consolation, and a good reputation as liabilities. Rather, if we put genuine trust in God, no storm will be too devastating, while our reliance on fickle people and passing things offers no guarantee of safety and security. Rather, we must cling to what gives life, like a tree planted beside the waters. In God alone is life.

Rolo B Castillo © 2022