Friday, March 14, 2014

Called to luminosity!


Moses, Jesus and an old man in a flowing white robe went golfing one day. Moses went first and hit the ball. It landed in the water trap, so Moses parted the water and chipped the ball onto the green. Next, Jesus hit the ball. It also landed in the water trap, so Jesus walked on the water and chipped the ball onto the green. Finally, the old man hit the ball. It also headed for the water trap. But, just before it fell into the water, a fish jumped up and grabbed the ball in its mouth. As the fish fell, an eagle swooped down and grabbed it in its claws. The eagle flew over the green where a lightning bolt shot from the sky, startled it and it dropped the fish. As the fish hit the ground, the ball popped out of its mouth and rolled into the hole for a hole-in-one. Jesus shrugged His shoulders, turned to the old man and said, “Now Dad, if you don't stop showing off, we won't bring you next time.”

We heard in our Gospel today that Jesus “was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” Take a moment to take in that sight. What must it have been like for the disciples to see something so incredible – Jesus is transfigured, glorified, wrapped in the mantle of God’s wonder – all in the sight of three simple fishermen, Peter, James and John? For them, this moment of Transfiguration was a defining moment in their lives. Up until now, they had seen Jesus in normal, everyday ways. He had not yet really revealed His divinity. But, in this moment they saw Jesus in a new and spectacular way; they experienced this miraculous presence of Moses and Elijah. They heard most wondrously the very voice of God echoing from Heaven, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” And, from this moment, everything was different. From this moment, they began to see Jesus in a different light.

And it was an experience they would never forget. We know this from the Second Letter of Peter, where St. Peter writes, “With our own eyes we saw his greatness. We were there when he was given honor and glory by the Father, when the voice came to him from the Supreme Glory, saying, ‘This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased!’ We ourselves heard this voice coming from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain.” That letter was written 35 years after the resurrection; shortly before St. Peter would also be crucified. He remembered that moment until the very end.

And, while we may not have had quite the experience that Peter, James and John did; hopefully, we too have had some experience of transfiguration in our own lives. Hopefully, we have also had moments when, even for a split second, we seem to glimpse a reality beyond this one. These are moments when for an instant we see beyond the ordinary to something extraordinary - God’s true presence in our midst.

For me, the Eucharist is this moment of transfiguration par excellence. We gather in this church around this simple table and present mere bread and wine. And just as amazingly as on that mountain, it is transformed in our midst; transfigured into the very living presence of God. We begin with elements that are common, ordinary, mundane. We end up with something heavenly, extraordinary and miraculous. If our hearts and our spirits are well enough attuned; if we listen carefully, we too may hear a heavenly voice say, “This bread and this wine are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

The problem is that too often we don’t believe these experiences are real. Perhaps we close our selves off to the heavenly realm – only allowing ourselves to accept what can be seen, touched and verified. How sad this is. The reality is that Jesus is constantly revealing Himself to us. When our eyes our opened we begin to see that we live in a near constant state of Transfiguration. But, we are usually too busy or otherwise occupied to notice. We have stopped our hearts from hearing Him; seeing Him; allowing ourselves to ascend that mountain.

There is a story in the life of Blessed Mother Teresa when the BBC wanted to film her and her sisters at a shelter that they ran for the dying in the slums of Calcutta. The shelter where they brought the TV crew only had small windows at the top of high walls. It was very poorly lit inside and the crew hadn’t brought any portable lights with them. They thought it would be impossible to get any usable footage, but someone suggested that they film anyway. To everyone’s surprise, the footage turned out to be spectacular. The whole interior of the shelter was bathed in a mysterious warm light. The camera crew said that it was impossible to explain. Writing about this, one journalist said, “Mother Teresa’s shelter is overflowing with love. One senses this immediately on entering. This love is luminous, like the halos artists make visible around the heads of saints. I find it not at all surprising that this luminosity should register on film.”

My friends, this is the heart of transfiguration – a recognition of Jesus and His divinity in our midst. But, it isn’t just Jesus who becomes transformed and transfigured. He invites us to become transfigured too. Jesus is calling us all today to leave this world behind; to ascend the holy mountain. He wants us to leave our earthly distractions that keep us from seeing His presence all around us. He wants to take us up to a high mountain alone with Him as he did with Peter, James and John. He calls us to shed the things that blind us from being witnesses to His miraculous presence all around us – so powerfully in the Eucharist, but also in our families, among our friends, in the faces of the homeless, the poor, the needy – everywhere we look. Jesus is there if only our eyes are opened.

And then, like Moses and Elijah and Jesus Himself on that mountain, like Blessed Mother Teresa and her sisters in that shelter, we are called to be a light in the darkness of our world; we are called to let our faith be luminous. This Lent is a time to stoke once again the flames of our faith so that we might see Jesus more clearly all around us; and reflect what we see more brightly to all we meet.

I can’t end today without mentioning our beloved Pope Francis who celebrated the one year anniversary of his election on Thursday. He, of course, is another powerful example of faithful luminosity. So let me end with a quote from him. He wrote – Tweeted actually – “A Christian is never bored or sad. Rather, the one who loves Christ is full of joy and radiates joy.” Let your love for Christ shine!

May the Lord give you peace.

1 comment:

  1. Superb commentary on the Transfiguration and beyond, Fr. Tom. I had been searching for the daily posting I do on FB (today was a homage to Barber's "Adagio for Strings" and I stopped looking as soon as I read your work--hope you don't mind sharing. Peace and Prayers--Bill Powers