Herald of Hope

According to last week’s newspaper, we Americans celebrated the summer solstice Wednesday, June 21, apparently at precisely 9:58 a.m. in our Central DST zone (though the times reported seem to vary from source to source, possibly depending on the time zone of each report and its geographical location).

Anyone extremely conscious of that global shift might have been sensitive to the tremors of the universe at that moment, though that might only be angels or some creature in motion from another planet or a different sphere of creation. Most of us humans probably never even noticed. The internet simply reported that such a change of seasons would be the case in all North America. To be precise about it, however, there was not any acknowledgement in the paper of the four time zones which span our continental nation. Someone simply noted the fact that we had moved from the season of spring into summer. The change, however it be calculated and recorded, was certainly welcome, at least to me.

I consider Wisconsinites (myself certainly included) most blessed to experience the four seasons in distinct, if at times blurry, sequence, each with its own set of blessings. We hardly ever must rush to the cellar to hide from a tornado or violent storm in this part of our world. We clearly live in the globe’s “temperate zone.” Our climate inconveniences are modest and minimal.

Our Catholic liturgy celebrates a different set of seasonal sequences. Advent suddenly arrives and then moves into Christmastide with its climax on Epiphany. Lent changes into Eastertide and then into the splendor of Pentecost, though not so smoothly because of the tragedy-turned-blessing of Holy Week. Moreover, scattered throughout the year are snatches and sections of so-called “ordinary time” often populated by the memory and works of splendidly holy women and men. Even that season, however, is never really “ordinary” because of God mysteriously at work in every moment of human history.

As human beings, each of us also moves through the seasons of our own lives … childhood to adolescence to early maturity to strong and stable midlife and then finally to the richness of being viewed as seniors in whichever community we may live. Each stage has its own blessings and challenges.

Some years ago, psychologist Daniel Levinson wrote a remarkable volume entitled “The Seasons of a Man’s Life.” He broke our lives into roughly seven-year cycles. After prolonged serious study, he also noted that we Americans invariably come to a certain point in life, precisely sometime between the age of 38 and 42 (never, he claimed, before 37 and never after 43), when we take a closer look at our lives. He insisted that at that time we either make some changes about the quality and contents of our lives or spend the rest of life regretting it. That was certainly true for me.

For us, summer is a wonderful blessing. The proximity to Lake Michigan, while occasionally bringing slightly cooler temperatures in summer (and similarly slightly warmer readings amid winter temperatures) is also a gift. It provides a fine backdrop for the cycles of life and our responses to all of God’s many gifts. The Gospel suggests that the two basic responses we should make to the gift of existence, even with all its variations of burdens and blessings, should simply be gratitude and generosity.

Those are summertime tasks (and blessings) too.