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Be open to surprises and the veil will be lifted for you

       Back in August when the school year began, a thunderstorm erupted, giving us much needed rain. The sky was dark with heavy clouds, and claps of thunder rumbled in the distance. I was standing at a door of the school, and I had the door open slightly so that I could feel the rapidly dropping temperature, smell the air and hear the splatter of raindrops on the concrete sidewalk.

      At about 11 a.m., from my right, at a distance of about 50 yards, students appeared. Five girls were running in single file toward my left, and a good 10 feet separated each girl. They were clad in the school uniform, but wore no jackets or hats. Why would they?

      The early portion of the day had been dry, and rain was not forecast until much later in the afternoon. Each girl ran with their arms bent upright at the elbow, their heads bowed. Now and then they zigged this way and zagged that way in order to avoid a puddle. I supposed the girls were running to their cars.

      The charm of the scene, though, was their voices. They cried out. They squealed. They laughed. They belted out the ubiquitous “OMG!” I smiled, nodded and told myself how blest I was to observe this scene.   

      Much earlier that morning my lectio was “This day was made by the Lord; we rejoice and are glad (Psalm 118:24, Grail translation). What I was rejoicing in, what made me glad as I watched the girls flee, was innocence.

      Old folks (like me) would have carried an umbrella and walked. Most old timers would not have even ventured out at all. They would have waited for the rain to slacken. Why get wet? You could slip and fall and break a hip, or snap a femur, or blow out a knee.

      Fourteen to 18-year olds don’t think like that. For them, getting caught in the rain is an adventure, a moment for camaraderie, an opportunity to burn off energy. The glory of youth is precisely its insouciance. Oh, the quality is not desired in regards to studies, but it is a remarkable thing to behold in terms of this scene in the rain. And lest you think common sense is lost on the youth of today, can you say Gene Kelly and that scene from the 1952 film “Singin’ in the Rain”?

      I recall that most people welcomed the rain that day. Drought had been deep. “Look at that rain,” they said. “Boy, we sure need it. My lawn and flowers are sagging!”

      I asked around, and no one had seen the five girls running in the rain. Not surprised. Who would look out a window during a thunderstorm and expect to see five teenagers dash by?

      Which precisely made the scene so precious. Yes, the innocence, but the fleeting nature of it as well. That which is precious is often scarce or fleeting. Think of gold or the 110-meter high hurdles in the Olympics. Think of your adult children. Doesn’t it seem just yesterday that they were little?

      The Jewish mystic and theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote that every now and then, “God lifts the veil that seems to hide him from us.” And while that veil is lifted, we experience God in a new and powerful way. We are wonderstruck. But that veil quickly falls. And when it does, says Heschel, the memory of that experience when the veil was lifted is the incentive to keep searching for God.

      You never know what triggers the veil to be lifted. Watching those girls run through the run was a lifting of the veil for me. But it can be anything. God understands the way we think, and God uses our predilections to show himself to us.

      For example, Peter was a fisherman. When the issue of paying the Temple tax arises, Jesus instructs Peter, “Go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the Temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you.” (Matthew 17:27)

      Jesus does not dig down into his pocket and hand Peter a coin. Rather, Jesus uses what Peter knows – fishing – to produce the coin for the Temple tax. Matthew doesn’t record Peter finding that coin, but I’m guessing Peter was wonderstruck at finding it, just as the Lord had said.

      Keep watch. Be vigilant. Be open to surprises.   

 

      Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, I'll. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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