Isaiah on Snow and Community

On any given day, the Catholic mass is celebrated in the exact same way no matter the time or location, right down to what passages from the Bible are read. (OK, so the priest has some leeway in, for example, what he preaches, but the framework and the readings are the same.) The weekday masses include one reading from the Old Testament and one Gospel. Today’s read was from Isaiah.

“Thus says the Lord:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
Till they have watered the earth
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.”

We’ve had a bit of snow and ice now and again this winter and we were just on the end of a melt when I read these verses earlier today. Snow has been on my mind a lot.

A local news reporter interviewed me about a new bill being brought to our county council that would impact snow removal. I told him that when it has snowed, I’ve observed neighbors walking in traffic on their way to the bus stop because the sidewalk was impassable with ice and snow. I told him I’ve observed some turning around on their way to the bus stop when they see the snow and ice. We used to live in Minneapolis so, compared to there, we don’t get very much here in Maryland. This means that people are less prepared for in, however. And having to forego a bus trip because a sidewalk cannot be safely traversed can mean a lost wages or a missed health appointment or no trip to pick up groceries. These are no small things. The snow removal bill making bus stops and sidewalks more accessible, and especially in low income areas would have a real impact on at least some people’s lives with little or no sacrifice to the larger community.

So snow and my neighbors had been on my mind when I read Isaiah and it was like a little lightning bolt when he compares the Lord’s word to rain and snow. The rain a snow will water the earth, making food. Around here, in a suburban area, there’s not much food being grown that relies on the immediate snowfall. But I think that when Isaiah talks about the earth being made “fertile and fruitful” he means food but he also means more than that. He also means compassion and love for our neighbor. In our case, the snow forces us to think about our neighbors and about how we can make their lives a little better or a little easier. This is a fertile community: one in which neighbors care for each other and make sacrifices, big and small, in order that all of us can live in justice and peace.

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