A few evenings ago I was on a train, my head buried in my newspaper. The shooting in Las Vegas was the main headline, but Puerto Rico, Universal Credit, the benefits cap, Catalonia and several other dismal stories vied for my attention. And then something cut across this: I heard a camera click, a soft exclamation, and I looked up. I looked up and saw a dappled rose and gold and variegated blue magnificence filling the sky. For a few seconds I was transfixed, and then I reached for my phone, fumbled for the camera and started clicking, while we hurtled along, sudden trees momentarily hiding the golds and reds, and just as suddenly revealing them again.
Photos hastily taken with a phone from express train windows are rarely works of art, let alone technically perfect, but even in the blurrier images there was a vibrant swirl of clouds, and a sense of the gloriousness of this mottled beauty. A few days later I posted the photos on social media, with a line or two about looking up from dismal news to behold this. There was an enthusiastic response, with comments about the beauty of the sky, but also the glory - God's glory - to be found, if we only look. Here, as one person said, was something much bigger than all the news.
And yes: here was something immense and beautiful and glorious; here, very clearly, was God's glory... And yet... as I read those comments, my heart thrilling, I also recalled some prophetic words from our 1970 Chapter: To contemplate his Heart we have no need to turn away from this earth, the home of God made Man. Christ is present, hidden in the heart of the world... It is in this very humanity whose fear and loneliness and love he shared that his GLORY must shine forth....
God in all things, we say, glibly; God present and active in all aspects of the world and in our lives. And this means - this has to mean - that God is in Las Vegas and foodbanks and refugee camps, as much as in stunning sunsets, delicate flowers and breathtaking panoramas. God - the God I believe in and to Whom I have pledged my life - is as present in the darkness as in the light, even though his presence there is so much harder to discern. The pierced Heart of Jesus and the pierced heart of humanity are one, and when we contemplate one we do so through the other. Here, surely, is the incredible, ineffable mystery at the heart of our faith - that God chooses to be with us in ALL things, not just the sunsets and flowers.
But what enabled me to remember this was the fact that I looked up, took a moment away from dismal news, and shared the fruits of doing so.