Thinking Anew – Silver linings under the darkest of clouds
“Many are rediscovering a sense of community and our dependence on each other.” Photograph: Getty Images
They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and that no matter how bad a situation maybe some good will come of it. It is believed that the original thought comes from John Milton’s Comus: “there does a sable cloud turn forth her silver lining on the night”.
A similar sentiment is found in the ancient poem we know as Psalm 84: “Who going through the vale of misery use it for a well and the pools are filled with water”. In other translations the vale of misery is named as the Valley of Baca, a waterless desert devoid of hope yet, according to the psalmist, a place of refreshment and renewal.
As we struggle through our current “vale of misery” the pain and loss that many are experiencing, especially the loss of loved ones, is horrendous.
A recent photo of a mother and her extremely sick, vulnerable child needing a Garda escort to keep them safe while walking in a Dublin park speaks for itself.
Yet on the broader front as we have come together to meet the challenge, many are rediscovering a sense of community and our dependence on each other.
We had become an increasingly fractured society with many trapped in a fiercely competitive struggle for wealth and power with little time for anything or anyone else. And beneath this affluence was a growing underclass of people with insecure jobs, considered to be of little value.
An extreme example of this are care assistants in the healthcare system, many of them immigrants, deemed low skilled and paid accordingly.
But in recent weeks we have been forced to recognise the vital role that they and others like them have in keeping us safe and well.
It will be interesting to see how long our respect and gratitude last beyond the present crisis.
Joe Biden said recently that hatred does not go away, it just hides. The same can be said of greed and, sadly, it will again be a strong influence on the way people behave. Jesus was aware of the danger when he warned his disciples: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
The lockdown is an opportunity to take stock and consider what really matters at a time when we are being reminded that the world is full of goodness if we look for it.
That will come as no surprise to people of faith who believe that all of us are made in the image of God and have the capacity “to be the best that we can be”. This is often overlooked in religious thinking where there is an understandable focus on sinfulness.
The good we encounter in our everyday lives is prompted and resourced by the Holy Spirit, as we are reminded in tomorrow’s readings for Pentecost when the followers of Jesus, the Easter people, are equipped to bring to the world the gospel of love and hope for the future.
In his book Paths in Spirituality, Prof John McQuarrie writes: “From the beginning, God has been understood as God in the midst of men, God present and active in the world, God in his closeness to us as a dynamic reality shaping the lives and histories of men. The Spirit, in this sense, is not something other than God, but God in that manner of the divine being in which he comes closest, dwells with us, acts upon us.”
The Pentecostal Spirit should not be thought of as an intruder or as an occasional visitor; the Spirit is evident throughout the biblical narrative of God’s engagement with humankind and is touching people’s lives right now, enabling them to be signs of hope, silver linings under the darkest of clouds. As the hymn reminds us, God’s spirit is more engaged with us than we realise: “And every virtue we possess/ and every victory won, / And every thought of holiness, are his alone.”