As a college student in the mid-1960s I was keenly attuned to the work of the Second Vatican Council. The documents became our textbooks in those years, and the injunction that is seared into my memory is the importance to “read the signs of the times” (“The Church in the Modern World,” 3-4). In that vein, a newly ordained priest in our parish preached one Sunday that we should come to church each week with our prayer book in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other. His recommendation was not well received by the congregation, but the notion that the daily news should inform our prayer, and vice versa, has remained with me for more than fifty years. It seems a good means of scrutinizing the signs of the times.
The prophet Jeremiah certainly read the signs of the times. Although not a parent myself, I can sense a parent’s exasperation when I hear the Lord in today’s passage:
“Listen to my voice . . . Walk in all the ways that I command you . . .” Within those insistent verbs—listen and walk—I hear a parent’s booming voice, “Look at me when I’m talking to you!”
“But they turned their backs, not their faces . . .” And it goes downhill from there. “Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech.” What a sad commentary.
This is the season for listening to God’s voice, a time to read the signs of the times and look for ways we can gather, not scatter.