How our lives seem to be ruled by numbers! I wait anxiously for my blood pressure, my blood counts, and, yuck, even my weight!
There are matters we can grasp, understand, tackle. They are clean and clear.
That Aaron Judge can hit a ball 517 feet is a marvel we can watch and cheer. That the stock market index goes up can cause relief. That interest on oursavings rises is applauded. That our weight goes down emits a sigh of victory. That a waist size decreases brings disbelief!
Yes, we are big into numbers. Even the Church rejoices as we read that the population of Catholics in the world increases. When Catholic New York reports eleven ordinations to the priesthood, or that the enrollment in our Catholic schools is up a bit, we are glad.
Numbers can cheer us up; numbers can depress us.
An attention to these metrics is understandable. To pay attention to the measurements affecting our health and well being is wise.
The human intellect relies on what can be measured, charted, graphed, analyzed, scientifically or medically examined. The numbers don’t lie: counting, adding up, seems necessary, natural, and harmless. In fact, not to do so appears foolish and perilous.
King David showed such common sense. Those of us who daily pray the divine office read recently that David counted his people. (2 Samuel 24:1-4, 10-18, 24-25). He simply took a census. Sure seems a reasonable thing for a ruler to do. Yet, the Lord gets mad: He punishes David! Why?
The Lord is infinitely wiser than we are. Our measurements hardly apply to Him. For Him, a thousand years are but a day! He has no watch, calendar, scale, yardstick, microscope, adding machine, or Dow Jones average. No earthly metrics define, control, or constrain Him.
God knew that His servant, David, was relying on numbers. His census gave him a sense of power and control. It tempted him to pride in the growth and prosperity of Israel. He just might begin to trust more in what was measurable and quantifiable than in the Lord...
A priest now elderly told me that a year after his ordination he met Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, renowned for his ability to attract converts to the Church. The young priest reported, “Bishop Sheen, I’m a priest but one year and I have already have seven converts! Any advice?”
Those legendary eyes of Bishop Sheen looked at the young priest, and answered, “Quit counting!”
As potent as the measurable is, what cannot be quantified is infinitely more so.
As people of faith, we put ultimate confidence in what cannot be seen, analyzed, measured, counted, or quantified. We trust what is invisible: the power, grace, mercy, promises, and revelation of the God who cannot be programmed into a computer.
That bread and wine become His Body and Blood;
That He is alive in a clumsy, stumbling, sinful Church;
That whispered prayers are heard and answered;
That He is still with us when trouble comes and hearts break;
That He makes and keeps promises;
That virtue is rewarded and the ways of sin sooner or later catch up with us;
That sins can be forgiven and progress in holiness is possible;
That life eternal awaits and that the joys of this life are but hints;
That nothing can separate us from the love of God;
That the man on the Cross rose from the dead...
All of these, none of them measurable, are worth counting upon!