Look for the Signs

by Antonio Zebedeo Abad

On Saturday evenings, I would take my parents to church for Sunday vigil mass. There would be some times when we would come home and the dog had raided the garbage, leaving a mess to clean. The dog would look repentant as I proceeded to scold him. In a few weeks, he would raid the garbage again and would have the same repentant look. Mom would learn to lean the step ladder on the garbage bin.

Sometimes we feel like the dog doing the same mistakes over and over. Be content with your challenges and face them. The saints were sinners who just kept on trying. A milk carton said, “From contented cows.” Another milk carton said, “Our cows are never contented. They always strive to do better.” [-Murray Banks, MD] Someone once said, “Father, I am so sick and tired of confessing the same sins over and over again.” The priest responded, “I can give you some new ones if you’d like.”

I grew up by the sea. We would set out at dawn and watch for the seagulls diving into the sea to have our morning catch of tuna. The seagulls and tuna both feed on the mackerel, and feather lures on the hooks were enough to entice them to bite. If it was a dark night with no moon, the catch would be plentiful. If it was a night brightly lit by the moon, the fish would already have fed overnight and would hardly bite.

Have you ever thought about what happens in a null tide? The next time the tide peaks, just sit still on the dock and watch the water. For less than a minute, the water stops flowing inward and is still. Then, it starts flowing outward. Modern ships, with all their immense power, still depend on the tide. “We sail at high tide”, the captain orders. Considering that the water could be flowing at 9 knots or about 10 mph at peak flow, that is a force to reckon with. A sailboat with a hull speed of 6 knots would be effectively sailing aft at minus 3 knots. You either flow with the tide or fight against it.

In medieval times, ships that depended on wind and rowing power had to carefully watch the turn of the tide in entering the harbor. Whichever ship docks first will sell much of their merchandise. This is what Shakespeare meant when he wrote in Julius Caesar:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”


There was a time when things had very unique designs. Think of a 1960’s Chevy Impala, or a 1950’s Cadillac Eldorado. Today, many cars look so similar, shaped by the wind and interchangeable parts. On motion pictures, viewers’ attention has been so dulled that to seek attention, they all have similar sound effects of a rump, a swoosh, or a zoom. People have lost that subtlety in discernment with all the noise of the media that the media itself must make more noise to emphasize things and overcome their own noise. We’ve lost the subtlety of listening carefully to the dialogue, such as in Peter Sellers’ last major motion picture entitled, “Being There” filmed at the magnificent Biltmore Estates.

Many times in our lives, the signs would be more subtle. Obedience would not as much entail following the rule. We go through many life challenges and feel like the world is crumbling on our lives. We feel that God has abandoned us. [Mt 27:46] There is a saying, “Whenever God closes a door, He always opens a window.” As a Carmelite, I add, “It is through the silence of interior prayer that we discover the open window. And it usually takes a series of discoveries before we find the light.”


Those times when we are caught between a rock and a hard place, at the point when we plead with God to take this cup away from us [Lk 22:42], are the moments of discernment. Many of our known options have closed. These are options where we’ve always done things that way. We find out from Google Map that there is a better route than we thought. It is by discovering those other open options we see the light and find the open windows that God has laid for us.

As the old saying goes:
“As you ramble on through life, Brother,
Whatever be your goal,
Keep your eye upon the doughnut,
And not upon the hole.”


Don’t you feel better that God is driving and not you?

As King David writes in the Psalms:
“Be still and know that I am God.”

Don’t be a backseat driver. Calm down and relax, for God’s in charge. Be like Our Mother Mary, who kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. [Lk 2:19]

Ps 46:10

It may take a long time before we see the light. It may take weeks, months, years, or decades. As you look back at some chain of events in your life, you may later see the connection and the one who really carried you through those tough times when there was only one pair of footsteps in the sand, was really our God. King David wrote in Psalm 95:
Forty years I endured that generation.
I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray
and they do not know my ways.”
So I swore in my anger,
“They shall not enter into my rest.”

Ps 95: 10-11

St Teresa of Jesus from Ávila wrote:
Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing, God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who has God finds he lacks nothing.
God alone suffices!
In the original Castellano:
Nada te turbe, nada te espante.
Todo se pasa, Dios no se muda.
La paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta!

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