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Predicting the …

We like to know what the weather will be. Will it be warm and dry, not too hot and not too cold, so that we can enjoy some time outdoors? Predicting the weather is not that simple. It does not rain every time there is a cloud. We have to learn to tell the difference between the beautiful white puffy clouds and the dark grey clouds. Even then, it doesn’t rain every time we see a dark grey cloud.

How do meteorologists predict the weather? They use science. Meteorology is a physical science, meaning that we can take physical measurements and make physical observations in nature to predict the weather. For instance, there are certain conditions, namely moisture in the air, that are needed for it to rain. With this in mind, it seems like forecasting the weather should be an exact science. Yet, we all know the weather often doesn’t turn out exactly as forecasted.

From thinking about predicting the weather, I felt inspired to think about predicting the future. We desire at times to know what the future holds but we can’t. We aren’t even supposed to try to foretell the future. In Deuteronomy 18:10-12 we read, “Let there not be found among you anyone who causes their son or daughter to pass through the fire, or practices divination, or is a soothsayer, augur, or sorcerer, or who casts spells, consults ghosts and spirits, or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the Lord, and because of such abominations the Lord, your God, is dispossessing them before you.” We are to trust in the Lord. “Do not worry about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34). We ask the Lord to help us prepare for what is to come but then we trust in him.

Still, we wonder where the world is going. One doesn’t have to look far to find bad news. What does the future hold for us?

As challenging as predicting the weather is, predicting what is going to happen in the world is even harder. Meteorology is a physical science that involves physical laws of nature that do not change (at least without God’s direct intervention). Predicting where the world is heading involves predicting what human beings are going to do and that is never easy. There are patterns of behavior but is not strict laws of behavior to guarantee what people will do. To understand human behavior we use the social sciences like sociology and psychology. Sociology studies how groups of people interact while psychology studies individual behavior.

The challenge is that while sociology and psychology can help us understand human behavior, humans do not always respond as expected. Each person is shaped by their own past and this effects how they interpret and respond to present day events.

Human beings can also choose to ignore parts of what is going on around them. For instance, Jesus points out how we might readily see the splinter in our brother’s eye while failing to see the wooden beam in our own eye (Luke 6:37-42). We might readily see the small sins of another while choosing to ignore our own major sins. We don’t even realize we are doing it.

In responding to situations, we sometimes fail to see how what we do affects other people. We would like a world without consequences but we need to realize what we do affects others. How I look at others affects how I treat them. If we see only the bad in a person, we fail to lift them up. When we think a person will never change, remember “nothing is impossible for God.”

One example of how things are interrelated can be seen in how we view life. Some people do not respect life in the womb or at the end of life. This results in bad choices for babies in the womb and people nearing the end of life. Unfortunately, the lack of respect for the dignity of life spreads out. How many shootings happen because the shooter does not respect life.

Another challenge in understanding human behavior is the different frames we look at the world with. An example of this is seen in attempts to discuss the morality of abortion. I don’t know if anyone is truly pro-abortion. What they are is pro-choice. It is all about “choice.” They do not seem open to the Catholic perspective that life begins at conception such that the baby in the womb is alive. We pray for the Lord to help us find a way to dialogue on such issues.

Another challenge to understanding human behavior using sociology and psychology is that the notion that people define their own existence. Here, I have been often using Justice Kennedy’s words, ““at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” (Reilly, America on Trial, 6.  interior quote “Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. et al,. v. Casey, Governor of Pennsylvania, et a, 505 U.S. 833, 851  (1992)  https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/91-744.ZS.html.”).” Really? How does each person define the universe for themselves? We all live in the same universe. It can’t be different for each of us. I do not believe we can even define our our existence. For our lives to have meaning, they have to flow from something beyond ourselves (God). The Big Bang Theory might explain the science of our existence but it provides no meaning. If science is all there is and there is no god, then our lives are nothing more than a clump of cells coming together. Yet, I know we are so much more for we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). It is not all about me (see my previous article, “If It’s All About Me”).

If we are to read the signs of the times, we need to do so with the light of faith. Faith is what brings hope to a discouraging world (see my recent article, “The Gift of Hope”). We need to do our part but to realize we are not the creator himself. We can choose to cooperate with God in creating new life. We can choose to cooperate with God in the way we use the natural resources of the world. We can choose to use the gifts God has given us to help make the world a better place. Yet, we are not creators in our own right. God is the creator. We need to acknowledge this, “Yet, Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you our potter: we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:7).

In Jeremiah 29:11 we read, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.

Indeed, God has a “future of hope” for us. We ask the Lord for the grace to submit to his plan for us. The future can bring amazing things if we submit ourselves to God’s Will.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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