This year’s snowfall set a new record for Cincinnati and some other places in the Midwest. Snow increases the cost of keeping highways safe and drivable. Crews must plow and treat the roads if they are to be kept reasonably passable. The cost of the ice melt and the cost of spreading it strain budgets. In addition, environmentalists note that ice melt is harmful to the environment.
Every time we have another snowfall here I think about snow removal costs and how other parts of the country are experiencing drought. When I cross local bridges over the swollen Ohio River I think about the passage from Is 55:10-11 we read at Mass today.
For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful…So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:10-11 reminds us to consider the power of God’s word. God’s word is more subtle than ancient images of rainfall may indicate, though it still speaks to us. Isaiah’s poetry addresses people who lived close to the land in an agrarian context. Today we urban dwellers take clean, abundant tap water for granted, at least until there is a drought like that in California or contamination of the water supply like what happened in Charleston, West Virginia.
Surely, a gap exists between our cultural situation and that of Isaiah’s audience. Nevertheless, we benefit from his poetic imagination and profound insight. The immensity of rain and its life-giving importance is a reminder that the weather is beyond our control. There was a profound rhyme on our back porch thermometer when I was a kid:
Man’s a fool. When it’s hot he likes it cool.
When it is cool he wants it hot.
What it is he wants it not.
At the end of this week I will experience the impact of drought on southern California as I participate in the Los Angeles Religious Education Conference. It is the largest event of its type in the USA. When I return from the California conference, I hope and pray that our cold spell will have yielded to warmer spring temperatures. Yet, whatever happens, the weather is a reminder of our infinitesimal power compared to that of God.
Photo: Weikeong at PhotoXpress