The Sun Exists Always Beyond the Clouds
Already, with the rains, the bushes had begun to bud, and by this morning, flowers were asserting themselves on the landscape. Now the sun is working its way from behind the clouds, and though we’ll be a long time drying, the day will come, and the greenery will be all the more plentiful for the soaking.
The flooding probably cemented an especial feeling of relief at the dawn of spring that had already been likely, this year, given the economy. Emerging from the gloom won’t be easy, and being under water with respect to employment and basements alike has most certainly been a burden too much for some. For them, recovery will mean dramatic change.
Which isn’t necessarily the worst of outcomes. The point, though, is that if we want to, and if we strive to, we live in times during which recovering from adversity is almost always a reasonable expectation. That cultural reality brings to mind something Fr. John Kiley wrote for the latest Rhode Island Catholic:
Considering the threat that came from persecution and invasion, disease and division and reflecting on the coarseness of private life in previous centuries, it is little wonder that the promise of eternal life held greater attraction for ancient and medieval man than heaven does for modern generations. Previous eras knew they would face their maker through violence or disease much more quickly than modern man reckons.
The promise of heaven provided much more relief for the oppressed and beleaguered believers of the past than for the comfortable and contented masses of the modern Western world. Terrorism, unemployment and social unrest are certainly major contemporary issues but they are not the threat that slaughter, starvation and scarcity were to our ancestors. Sadly, the consolation of heaven is much less compelling for a modern believer than celestial solace was for the weary generations of the past.
That sense of something more is still critical in life, because the clouds always return, and there are battles that must be won in the cold, wet, weary days that can only be won when they are not mistaken for existential crises for the eternal soul. Here, I recall a passage from the very first editorial published in First Things, back in 1990:
Religion best serves public life by relativizing the importance of public life, especially of public life understood as politics. Authentic religion keeps the political enterprise humble by reminding it that it is not the first thing. By directing us to the ultimate, religion defines the limits of the penultimate. By illumining our highest purpose all lesser purposes are brought under transcendent judgment. …
… Temporal tasks are best conducted in the light of eternal destiny. Religion points us to the last things, framing the final direction that informs our decisions about life, both personal and public. The chief service of religion, then, is to teach us that the first things are the last things.
The word to which all such discussion dissolves is: perspective. The problems of day-to-day life, even when they have the rarity of hundred-year storms, matter very little in the scope of forever, and when forever is something to anticipate joyfully, we can derive meaning and hope even from the stains that the flooding leaves behind.