It has been HOT here the last several days--as it has through much of the country. The high recorded in Evansville on Tuesday was 99 degrees. With the extremely high humidity levels, the heat index was near 120. Weather fit neither for man nor beast. Merely step outside at 8 a.m., and immediately break into a sweat.
Apparently, an atmospheric tipping point was reached Tuesday afternoon about 3 p.m., when a severe thunderstorm accompanied by torrential downpours burst upon us. As it it began, while I was typing away in my office at the Abbey Press, I remember thinking, "Oh, good, now it will cool down a little--at least for a while." That it did, but first it got very LOUD.
A few days ago, I posted something with some references to fireworks, thunderstorms, and God's voice resounding over the waters. If God addresses his people out of the storm (cf. Job 38:1), then yesterday he certainly had a lot to say. Along with the wind and 2-3 inches of rain, there were some particularly close lightning strikes. One literally made me--and my co-workers--jump a few inches off our seats. Later, as I headed back up the hill to the monastery for Vespers, I noticed two trees not more than a hundred yards from the Press with long streaks of stripped-away bark from top to bottom. This morning, I took a picture of one of them, shown above (the Abbey Press is in the background).
The area where this lightning struck is where the original monastery and church once stood when the first monks arrived from Switzerland in the mid-19th Century. Still, the damage was not nearly as severe as it was a few weeks ago when a tornado hit the other end of the campus. Thankfully, no one has been injured.
I, for one, would much rather listen to God whisper than shout. However, it is wonderful to consider that the Source of that incredible power unleashed in these storms is infinitely greater than anything we can possibly experience or imagine in this world. And it is from that life-energizing, death-stripping power that we are invited by the God of Power and Might to "see what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are" (1John 3:1).
That knowledge, informed by faith, will make us stand taller than any tree, withstand any heat, and survive the strongest storm. As we heard God say to a startled Moses in today's first reading at Mass (Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12), "I will be with you."
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, ‘Glory!’