Tag Archives: Transfiguration

ARE WE BEING TRANSFIGURED?

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus is revealed in his divinity – with Moses and Elijah – before three close apostles.

As Paul wrote to the Philippians (2: 6-7), Jesus did not grasp on to his divinity, but humbled himself to take on our humanity.

During the Offertory of the Mass, as water is added to the wine, the priest or deacon prays

By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.

The transfiguration should remind us that we are called to God’s life, divinity, which is our deepest nature – made, as we are, in the image and likeness of God.

Today as we contemplate Jesus transfigured on the mountain, we should recall that God calls us to be transfigured – and to be present with God in the transfiguration of all creation.

Today we also remember the martyrdom on March 12, 1977 – forty years ago – of a good priest, an old man, and a boy on the road between Aguilares and El Paisnal in El Salvador. Padre Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit,  was killed because he sought the transfiguration of the people of El Salvador, especially the people of his parish.

But he sought not merely a transfiguration political or social, but a transfiguration of the whole person.

Almost seven years before his death he preached a sermon in the San Salvador cathedral on the feast of the Transfiguration. With many people present, including political leaders of the country he gave an impressive and strong homily.

He noted:

Christ our Savior came to save the entire person, to transfigure it in this sense into a new person, authentically free of all situations of sin and misery, self-determining and free to enjoy all the privileges of being a child of God, conquered by the triumph of the resurrection of Christ. This transfiguration of the person so conquered, proclaimed, and demanded by Christ and his followers has its starting point in baptism, the holy commitment of each baptized with the resurrected Christ.

We are transfigured in our baptism, called to live a transfigured life.

But this was not for Padre Grande only something personal, least of all individualistic. He probed deeper:

And so we return to the question: Is the Salvadoran person transfigured?
Is the immense majority of the Salvadoran people, represented by our peasants, transfigured?
Is the minority transformed, the one that has in its hands all the economic power, decision-making power, control of the media, and means of communication?
There must be some painful confessions.
Many baptized in this country have not accepted the demands of the postulates of the Gospel that demand a transfiguration.
Therefore, those same people are not transfigured in their mind and in their heart and they put a dam of selfishness in front of the message of Jesus our Savior and the demanding voice of the official witnesses of Christ through the Church, the pope and his bishops!

As I look around me here in Honduras, I see many who are transfigured by their encounter with the Lord.

But what Padre Grande saw in El Salvador in 1970 I also see today in Honduras. I do not see a people transfigured. I see a people crushed under the weight of poverty and corruption. I see leaders who seek their own glory and don’t let the glory of God shine through in the people. I see a people despised by those with wealth and power who many times do not see their glory as children of God. I see a people who are treated as pawns in power struggles, handed “gifts” from party and government officials who only want their votes and do not want a people who think for themselves and seek to be the protagonists of their history.

This, for me, is evident today, primary election day in Honduras, a day where partisan politics takes a central place in the life of the nation. No public gatherings are allowed, but we will have Mass in several places.

Partisan politics here has taken on a role that the lack of real organization of the people has left empty. It has almost become a type of idolatry. I don’t see it transfiguring the people.

But I have hope since I see small signs of people who have been transfigured by their faith and are working quietly in the transfiguration of their communities.

This is the transfiguration Honduras needs and lacks.

And so I pray that as Christ came to share own humanity, we may share his divinity and live as children of God, brothers and sisters in Jesus, transfigured.

Mural-Rutilio-Grande-El-Paisnal

Painting in El Paisnal of Romero and Rutilio


The quotation from Rutilio Grande’s sermons was adapted from Thomas Kelly, Rutilio Grande, SJ: Homilies and Writings (Liturgical Press, 2015). The Spanish can be found in Romero-Rutilio: vids encontradas (UCA editores, 1992).

Transfiguration, Hiroshima, and Pope Paul VI

On a mountain in Galilee, Jesus let his disciples see the glory of God, his divinity, hidden beneath his humanity. And so we celebrate today the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

The world hides the glory of God which is concealed at the depths of the creation. In fact, we distort the glory of God by the bombing of civilians, as at Hiroshima, what Pope Paul VI called “a butchery of untold magnitude.”

But God has a way of undermining our attempts to destroy creation.

God has a way of revealing the Glory of God hidden in Jesus, the Beloved Son of God, and in God’s creation.

God is the God who transfigures, who subtly reveals the Glory that God wishes for us.

St. Irenaeus said that “The Glory of God is the human person fully alive.”

Blessed Monseñor Oscar Romero said that “The Glory of God is the poor person fully alive.”

How will I make that glory known and loved today?


Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. It is also the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. On this day in 1978 Blessed Pope Paul VI died.

Heaven in ordinarie

Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,…
Heaven in ordinarie,…
George Herbert, “Prayer”

 Jesus was probably very ordinary in his appearance. His hands were probably rough from his work as a carpenter. His feet were probably very dirty, walking through the dust or mud on streets that people shared with the animals. He probably sweated a lot under the hot summer sun and maybe even exuded the odor often connected with sweat.

But one day he took three disciples up on a mountain. There they saw the Godhead hidden in Jesus the human, they saw “Heaven in ordinarie.”

God was well-hidden in Jesus, though He manifested His Godhead in all that He did. But to most people he might just appear to be another Jew from Galilee.

I think that today’s Gospel (Mark 9: 2-10) reminds us that there are two temptations in our life with God.

The first is not to see the presence of God in the ordinary, in our daily life. We get so caught up in daily life that we don’t have time to go up to the mountain to pray. Or we get so used to the signs of God presence around us that we can’t see God in our midst.

But there is another temptation. Like Peter we want to stay on the mountain; we want to hold on to the peak experience. We fail tofind God in the everyday experience of our lives, full of suffering and joy, full of promises of death and resurrection,

George Herbert’s poignant description of prayer as “Heaven in ordinarie” reminds me to be attention both to heaven and to the ordinary – for God is present in both.

——

The English Anglican poet George Herbert died on March 1, 1633.

Tabor or Hiroshima

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

What happened on Mount Tabor?

In the first place, Jesus revealed in a stunning way that He is God. By doing this He also sought to inspire hope in his followers who would witness His death – and resurrection.

But I think that in another way Jesus was trying to show us who we really are in the depths of our being and who we really can become.

The Orthodox tradition takes seriously the statement of St. Athanasius that God became human that we might become God.

There is the spark of God’s love and divinity at the center of our being. It is obscured by sin but it is still there. On Mount Tabor, Jesus showed us that speak of God which can become a burning flame of love when we listen to Him.

But sometimes what we do or fail to do or the circumstances of life try to put out that spark – or substitute false fires of destruction for that flame of love.

So today, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, we remember that attempt to unleash the power of death, ignoring the lives of the civilians who lived in Hiroshima.

Pope Paul VI, who died on August 6, 1978, put it bluntly in his World Peace Day Message for 1976:

“If the consciousness of universal brotherhood truly penetrates into the hearts of [humans], will they still need to arm themselves to the point of becoming blind and fanatic killers of their brethren who in themselves are innocent, and of perpetrating, as a contribution to peace, butchery of untold magnitude, as at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945? In fact has not our own time had an example of what can be done by a weak man, Gandhi — armed only with the principle of nonviolence — to vindicate for a nation of hundreds of millions of human beings the freedom and dignity of a new people?”

Will we choose the spark of love of Jesus on Mount Tabor and give of ourselves or will we choose the fire of death of atomic and nuclear weapons, of drones, of missiles aimed at civilians?

The future of our planet depends on what we choose.

But even more, our future depends on our choice.

Will we nurture the spark of God in our hearts and the hearts of others or will we bring death with the fires of our weapons?

 

God and the bomb

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, when Jesus on a mountain top (possibly Mount Tabor) with Peter, James, and John was “transfigured.”

As Mark (9:3) put it in a homey image: “his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.“ Moses and Elijah appeared with him and, according to Luke’s account (9:31), they spoke of Jesus’ upcoming death.

On this day, the US dropped a bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing up to 166,000 and leaving tens of thousands more with debilitating radiation sickness. This bombing and the bombing three days later of Nagasaki are the only uses of nuclear weapons in war – and they were used against cities and killed civilians.

President Truman showed no remorse for the use of these weapons of mass destruction. According to Eduardo Galeano, in Children of the Days, Truman said: “We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.”

How different was the response of Pope Paul VI (who incidentally died on August 6, 1978), who called it a “butchery of untold magnitude.”

The light of the mount of Transfiguration and the blinding light of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima provide striking contrasts. Des Moines bishop Maurice Dingman wrote of this in a pastoral letter in 1978:

“The very existence of the human race is in jeopardy. We must halt the arms race in the spirit of Tabor or proceed with the armaments race and face annihilation in the spirit of Hiroshima.”

The light of Tabor was not a light of destruction but of self-giving. Jesus was discussing his upcoming death with Moses and Elijah. And as he came down the mountain he told his disciples to keep this secret until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.

The difference is, for me, clear.

Will we let ourselves be transfigured, transformed, by the Lord who gave his life for us and calls us to take up the cross in order to live?

Or will we impose a cross of war and injustice on others in order to preserve our “way of living”?

And so, it is not “God and the bomb.” It is God or the bomb.

 

Transfiguration of Jesus and the poor

In the Catholic lectionary the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent is the Transfiguration of Jesus, this year from Luke 9: 28-36.

Back in Honduras, after a pilgrimage to Italy, I realize how much my experience with the poor in the countryside influences my reading of scripture.

This morning I read the reflection on the readings in The Word Engaged, by the late Fr. John Kavanaugh, S.J. It is a great reflection and you can read it here. But I realized that it is meant especially for North American readers.

Here in Honduras, I see the readings today as signs of hope for the poor.

This was reinforced by my reading of sections of St. Leo the Great’s Sermon 51, as found in Benedictine Daily Prayer:

 The Transfiguration showed that the members of Christ’s Body could expect to share in the glory, revealed in their Head.

Jesus, St. Leo went on to explain:

…took upon Himself the full burden of our lowliness…

Yesterday I went out with Father German to two remote villages in the parish of Dulce Nombre de Copán where he celebrated Mass. The poverty of the people is clear, as is their faith.

In the second village he remarked that in a capitalistic society, where people are valued by what they produce and consume, the poor are nothing, without value. But, he said, you have a great worth and dignity, made in the image and likeness of God.

This reinforced my concern that the people we serve have to recover their dignity, which the Honduran society, economy, and culture often deny them.

They have to realize that they are beloved sons and daughters of God, followers of a lowly God who became flesh among the poor, of a God who transfigures us.

In Philippians 3:21, from today’s second reading, Paul tells the people

The Lord Jesus Christ will give a new form to this lowly body of ours and remake it according to the pattern of his glorified body.

The Lord truly raises up the lowly, as Mary sang in the Magnificat (Luke1:58) – something that our culture and economic systems fail to understand, worshiping the god that fills up our bellies (Philippians 3:19).

But this is the message that we need to hear this Lent, a time for conversion, for recognizing that our glory comes from a God who sees us as His beloved sons and daughters.

And it is a message that the poor, the marginalized, and the abandoned of the world especially need to hear and that we who are among the rich and comfortable need to take seriously, especially in our relation to the lowly of this world.