To name something properly is also a form of prayer. Jesus called this “reading the signs of the times”. What does he mean by that expression?
What Jesus had in mind was not so much that we should try to attune ourselves intellectually to all the cultural, psychological, and religious trends of our time. To read the signs of the times, for Jesus, meant trying to read what is happening in our lives, communally and individually, in such a way as to discern the finger of God inside the outer movements of our lives. My parents called this trying to see “divine providence”, namely, trying to hear what God is saying inside the outer events of our lives.
There is a rich biblical background to this. Indeed, in many ways, this is central to the faith of Israel in the Jewish scriptures. For them, nothing happened that was purely an accident. God’s finger was always inside of every event, no matter how secular or accidental it seemed, and the task of faith was to try to read what God was saying inside every event. For example, if Israel lost a war, it wasn’t because the other army had superior soldiers. It was because God was trying to teach her something there was something she was supposed to learn from this defeat. Likewise, if there was a drought, it wasn’t because there was global warming. It was because, for reasons Israel had to try to discern, God wanted her to live on less that year. For her, nothing was purely accidental. God’s finger was somewhere inside of every event, speaking to her.
John of the Cross said that the language of God is the experience that God writes into our lives. Our task is to read that language, and we read it when we properly name the events of our lives. A proper naming does three things: It is prophetic, it names our faith and our faithlessness, our justice, and our injustice; it is diagnostic, it points to the correct prescription to help remedy our ills; and, most importantly, it is a form of prayer, it tries to hear what God is saying inside the outer events of our lives.
Not everything can be fixed or cured, but it should be named properly.
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