Saturday, February 22, 2014


Original sin is alive and well, and continues to define our experiences here in Silver Spring, as throughout the world.
No, no, I am not talking about actual sin.  I am not going to point fingers or name names, not even my own, for anyone’s most grievous fault, in thoughts or in words, in what they have done, or in what they have failed to do.
No, right now I am basking in the afterglow of a perfect example of what I have preached and written about: that whatever we build will crumble, whatever we fix will break, and everything we do, with craft and pride, will be undone.  Sometimes it is a bitter thing when one’s own words prove true.
The winter storm that graced us last week with a thick blanket of snow was welcomed by many for the deliverance it gave from school and work.  I have already warned of the costs of such liberty, which will needs be paid in summer. 
But it proved to be the gift that keeps on giving.  As the temperatures climbed above freezing, a zone they have not much visited of late, the snow and ice began to melt, and slide.  And Monday night, slide it did from the slate roof of our fine school building, with roar and crash, all of a piece, and of a sudden. 
Smack into our brand new heating and air conditioning units for the school.
Two of the outdoor exchange units of our heat-pump system for the school were destroyed.  Of course, this meant that part of the school went unheated, and although all that masonry does hold heat, the cold quickly gained ground.  When I visited the middle-school on Wednesday and found Mrs. Riazi, our science teacher, clutching a cup of hot water to keep alive the flame of hope in her heart, I realized that something had to be done, and soon.  The kids, for the most part, were fine (they run hot); but the teachers were the canaries in the coal mine.
So, portable heating units have been brought in, and new machinery will be delivered and installed soon -- much sooner than we originally thought possible.  But, dang!  All that beautiful work!  That transformative, marvelous change in the (literal) climate of our school, all that effort and cost, undone -- in an instant.  Fie!
Yes, we have insurance, and yes, that will cover most of it.  But it just stinks to be reminded of the ultimate futility of our every effort to perfect the circumstances of our life on earth.
This is why we need Jesus.  If you build it, it will fall down; but if you call upon Him, He will come – and He will at last stand forth upon the dust, … (and our) own eyes, not another’s, will behold Him.  (with apologies to Field of Dreams, and Job 19:26).
Father McDonell would be better than I am at characterizing the Scotsman’s take on life, the universe, and everything, but I can echo Robert Burns in his 1785 poem, To a Mouse, on turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men

Gang aft agley,

An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,

For promis'd joy!
To that insightful summary of the reality of our lives, I shall add only that the encounter with the mouse, herein described, occurred in winter.  God deliver us!

Monsignor Smith

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