Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Lectionary: 178


Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.


Do you suppose there is some mysterious connection between our spiritual foundations and our physical infrastructures? Is it possible America's disintegrating bridges, roads, sewers, water mains and buildings tell us something about our spiritual life?
I have been amazed on occasion to see the huge projects that were undertaken by our ancestors as they built this country. I think of the hundreds of locks on all our major rivers that made them navigable. I think of the electrical power grids; I am astonished when I fly at night to see tens of thousands of square miles of urban landscape lit up by electric lights. How do they do that? I think of the interstate highway system that allows trucks and passenger cars to drive from California to Maine without stopping for a traffic light. The system was still under construction when I started driving. (It took an hour to get through downtown Wheeling, WV!) 
I think of the thousands of schools, from elementary to university, that were built to accommodate the Baby Boomers. New gyms and fitness centers appeared when we arrived at adulthood. But new hospitals and nursing homes are not being built today.
Planning infrastructure is time-consuming and contentious; building infrastructure is expensive; maintenance is more challenging than both. Which should we do: build a new cell phone tower to provide faster Internet access, or replace all the underground water pipes? Should we hot patch the potholes again or build a rapid transit rail system? Can we put off another year raising taxes to maintain old systems? 
Elected officials are loathe to raise taxes; it's easier to borrow money from old systems whose maintenance can be forestalled until they're out of office. Can a democracy deal with straitened economics? Or is a totalitarian government more agile for an aging nation?
The Old and New Testaments often remind us of the virtue of wisdom. Jesus has told us we should be as innocent as lambs and as clever as serpents. The devout are not those who pray a lot; they are those who live in the real world and make real world, difficult decisions and hard choices.
Those who listen to the words of Jesus and act on them don't expect life to be easy; they do expect to make sacrifice; they don't suppose they can live off the courage of their ancestors; they do plan a future beyond their life expectancy. Their nations are built on rock.









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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.