It was 7:00 p.m., toward the end of dinner in the rectory of St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City. My Paulist brother, sitting across the table from me, suddenly exclaimed, “There they are again!” “What’s that?” I asked with a blank stare. “Don’t you know? The sirens outside: It’s time to thank the health-care workers!” One week had passed since the city imposed a shelter-in-place policy due to COVID-19. I had heard the sirens before, blaring out from the hospital just around the corner each evening, but never attached any significance to them. This time, however, I rushed to the windows and from there also heard the thunderous applause as New Yorkers honored them with heartfelt gratitude.
Sometimes Jesus’ teachings are like sirens and thunderous applause, beckoning us to pay closer attention and to become better aware of the signs of the times. Sometimes it takes a proclamation from across a table to understand their meaning; other times we need to open up a window in order to hear for ourselves; and still other times we need to walk outside our homes and experience his teachings firsthand . . . which is exactly what I did. At 7:05 p.m. I ran outside and arrived at the entrance of the hospital. There, amid the sound of sirens and applause, I saw the faces of the health-care workers for the very first time. They were deeply moved, some smiling, others with tears rolling down from their eyes. At that moment, Jesus’ teaching became clear to me: his mighty deeds were continuing through such daily acts of courage.