Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Transfiguration: God's Divinity Changes our Humanity

Father John J. Lombardi

Sign Seen: "In the dark? Turn to the Son."
(On a church bulletin board in Taneytown).

That's transfiguration!-from darkness to Light. Meanwhile, while swimming down at the Covered Bridge by Loy's Station Park in the shadow of Mary's Mountain, we-David and Doug, political friends from Capitol Hill, and this chaplain, received a "physical transfiguration" after a long hot Summer day-our dampened, -overheated bodies were refreshed, renewed in Owens Creek. The soothing, cool creek waters healed us as we leisurely lounged in the mountain waters-another kinda' transfiguration! And: I heard a pilgrim once say, after a vacation-stint in the "outback," (in the wilderness away from most of civilization): "I'm a new person!" Wow-really?! Yes, this too can be a transfiguration! Refreshment and renewal by way of God's creation.

But transfigurations can also be "negative". The acclaimed youth singer Charlotte Church, according to CNS/Reuters New Service was defiled the Holy Father (calling him a "Nazi"), she also dressed up as a nun and pretended to hallucinate while eating 'communion' wafers imprinted with smiling faces signifying the drug Ecstasy.

She smashed open a statue of the Virgin Mary to reveal a can of hard cider inside, said she worshipped "St. Fortified Wine," and stuck chewing gum on a statue of the child Jesus." This is sick. Transfigurations can go from beautiful to ugly and sick in no time. .She's changed--for the worse-as we all can if we don' watch out: we need constant conversion. And just think: Dictator Fidel Castro just had surgery. He used to witness the Transfiguration of the Mass as an altar boy. Then he somehow lost the Lord and became a communist and has deranged Cuba for over 45 evil years, oppressing people and virtually destroying Catholicism there. And you perhaps know about Mel Gibson. While being arrested recently after drinking while intoxicated he defiled Jewish persons. He later apologized-at least twice. Now, underneath the skin we may have bad feelings about anybody, question is: Are we undergoing spiritual transfiguration to be more like Christ Jesus?

Another "negative transfiguration" is the Middle East. Point: Hezbollah, the evil- terrorist organization in Lebanon (supported by Iraq) is now at war with Israel by sending missiles upon the Biblical land. The people there are in a conflagration-transfiguration of violence. We must pray for the Peace of the Holy land-and work at it for and with them (see below and next week's bulletin on Teachings on the Middle East).

In this Sunday's Gospel (Mk. 9:2-10) Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a Mountain and shows forth His divinity: God shows Himself to mankind. Underneath the "skin" of Jesus, unlike us, is His Divine Nature, and He revels that to His chosen Apostles-and to us. Unlike the "underneath of skin" of those mentioned previously, Jesus will never change and turn bad: He is always good and Divine!…What does this Transfiguration mean for us today?

Christ is the fulfillment of the Law (represented by Moses) and the prophets (represented by Elijah). One of the direct biblical purposes of this Transfiguration-Gospel account (the Fourth of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary) is that Jesus Christ is the realization of the Jewish Hopes and dreams-He is the Messiah. He is the fulfillment of Israel. This is one of the important conclusions for Peace in Palestine-the acceptance by all of Israel of the Christ. As a matter of fact, it is a "precursor" of the Second Coming of Our Savior. (See: The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph # 674-). Now, answer three important questions: Do you recognize Christ as your Savior? Do you really believe He is the Savior of all the World-including Jewish persons, Israel, Muslims and all others? What will you do about this? This is a difficult teaching in today's relativist world (which holds no absolutes and that there are many paths to salvation-but this difficult teaching-and mindset-- is needed today-for both true Peace and Salvation.

Manifestation of Divinity: The philosophers Plato and Aristotle and other great sages looked for "the Absolute"-God--and did not find Him by human reason alone, no matter how powerful these Greek guys were! So, to whom does God show himself? Ordinary fishermen, poor guys, these Apostles. While we must try as far as natural human reason may take us (as in philosophy), we must also rely on God's grace aiding human reason to dis-cover Him. While it is true that God chooses to reveal Himself in delicate and discrete ways, and has also done so thru the Holy Bible, and irrevocably in Jesus Christ, Christianity has challenges to this Sacred Revelation. In other words, people have become oblivious to the obvious-they have ignored Gods' Revealing Presence in Christ.. The main challenges to this Revelation are (which you, yourself, may sometimes embrace, consciously or not): Deism-this states that God began the world long ago and now sits aback and above without care for His world-a "Clockmaker" who began the clock but does not providentially guide it today. Not true: in the Transfiguration Jesus shows God's on-going Love for the world and that He-is-with-us. Do you believe this or not? Agnosticism: means that we cannot know God-He is utterly and only mysterious, we cannot know anything about Him. Wait a minute!--He revealed Himself in the Bible, in Jesus Passion, Death and Resurrection, and still does today by keeping His creation ordered and alive.

Christ Prepared the Apostles for suffering: In the Transfiguration Jesus gives a favor, a "spiritual-mystical insight" into God, and the meaning of life-that life is full of suffering and yet, there is Victory in the Cross and resurrection. Jesus Himself says: "In the world you will suffer, but take courage I have overcome the world" (Jn. 16:33). Jesus is preparing us for suffering, but, like the Apostles, will you suffer for and with Him, precisely because He ultimately is victorious over suffering?

"Hanging out with God and holy people"-Peter-the-Apostle rightly found it "good to be here".-amidst The Transfiguration. This kind of feeling should be, or become, natural, second nature-to be in the midst of Holy healing love, and amidst other holy ones. But for a lot of people it isn't. This Chaplin can remember the opposite-hanging out with "shady types" and persons of wrong morals and values (they could probably say the same about me!). Do you allow yourself, your friends or children to be in bad environments, amidst un-holy love? I just heard of a family whose son was in a bad environment-harmful people, place and things-- and friends, noticing this, invited them to change it for the son before it was too late. They did. The family moved before the son got in trouble and further decay and is now on a road to holiness-hanging out with God and other "holy types". So: check and purify your environment-I recently met a man who is raising his grandchildren. One is an altar server. He said that he wants the grandchildren to be around the altar and Mass to teach them about Jesus, even when it is difficult. He explained a challenging church situation of differing difficult personalities involved and then mentioned this to his young grandchild. When he explained that even amidst this difficult situation they needed an altar server, the young child quipped up: "I'll go, granddad." So: run to God and be around, and help His holy ones!

Leave the world behind--To go up the Mountain of Transfiguration (mystically) we need to leave some things behind. The Three P's common to us all include: Possessions--do you have inordinate attachments to gadgets and gimmicks and other things which weigh you down? I recently pulled up next a Hummer/H2 gigantic vehicle-and was aghast how semi-common they are. Perhaps you've seen them around: not just in war zones suburban owners now feel they need them. Does one really need this to get a gallon of milk or go on pilgrimage? Isn't it amazing how many other large vehicles are in use today, and so common?-and this is taking energy and resources from the Middle East and causing consumption and materialistic competition. Are these large possessions possessing us? Oppositely I just got a tour of the Franciscans of the Primitive Observance new house on Mary's Mountain: it is elegant in a simple and spiritual-poverty way-lots of wood and light and empty space, a large ornate stove for heating and cooking; small "cells" where the Franciscan monks sleep and pray and study (seven feet by six feet!). Being there transfigured my thoughts about living and simplifying-I need to--more! Persons-do you have some persons you must lovingly leave behind, wrongful, hurtful relationships you must be freed of behind to "go higher"). Perception-experiences: we all have fulfilling and sometimes wrongful ones which we cling to, and yet the Infinite Lord-God is offering us Himself in ongoing Love-the thrill that won't last a lifetime but, rather, all Eternity? What are you exchanging for this? Go higher! Leave behind? Like the Apostles-be a mystical adventurer.

Transfigured Desi Re. Below are common thoughts, passions or feelings we've all had, or have, and some ways to transfigure them Anger-we may say, and get attached to the thought and mental mind-state, "woe is me" because someone hurt us. We may be innocent, but we cling to this feeling and thought. It doesn't help. Don't hang on to that feeling or that mental trap: be transfigured. Use the abuse for drawing closer to Christ in His Passion-give it over, offer it up--le it go, or take the other persons' unjust action toward you as a punishment for past sins. Be transfigured. Don't get trapped but grasp for Christ, as St Paul says "Take every thought captive in obedience to Christ". Lust: In this "mangling mind state" we may say, within: "I need pleasure" or "I am enchained to it" (whether a fantasy or past experience or harmful image). This will en-chain you and cause you harm if you let it. St. Augustine called his lustful life one of "chains" whereby one lustful act led to another, as kinda "necessary chain links" he formed by consenting to lust. Thus the "chain" metaphor. No, you don't need pleasure (witness the saints' heroic lives of mortification) and you are not a "victim" of un-willed enchainment to this cunning and consistent spirit. St Paul counsels this mental transfiguration: Whatever is true, noble, lovely righteous and lovely, think on these things" (Phil. 4:8) We must think on the higher things (Col. 3) all the time to become new creations in Christ (II Cor 5:17) Jealousy-your egoic-earthly mind will "say": "I want what he has" or "She has so much more than me" (possessions or talents or whatever-the list goes on as we ascent to these miring mind games). Oppositely we should discount these enchaining feelings and …count blessings-everyday, what God has given you-food, shelter, friends and most of all His endless Love! And we should also "rejoice in others' success" rather than envy them. This will transfigure you! Eternal recurrence of the "Same old" everyone has this experience: "Didn't I just do this" or "Another Monday morning" or "I've done this a thousand times". Rather than complain you should rejoice that God is giving you another day or moment to please Him and, besides, you are not starving as four thousand people die daily from. Nor are you in a slum or in a physical war zone.

Strife-irritability-you may say in this vein and mental state: "I will get or be upset against Joe or Sara or…." St Paul says in I Cor 13: 5 that LOVE is not irritable. So let us all try to stop our moods from mystifying us and actually choose Love and joy and service towards others rather than the "blues". The choice is yours: joy or sorrow. Es. In marriage, as I just heard from an evangelical radio commentator-instead of saying "Pass the Metro section" of the paper at a meal, rather, have an intimate conversation, or light some candles (they don't have to be blessed!) and/or tune out the world and turn on to one another-we all have tow work at our own human-spiritual transfiguration with Christ's Grace!

Christ still shows Himself today. How?: Jesus is involved in an ongoing Revelation of Love…Thru the Sacred Scripture-do you read the Bible-"God's Word" to find Him reveal Himself to you in timeless ways? In the Blessed Sacrament/Mass: Jesus Christ transfigures, thru the celebrant priest, the bread and wine into His Sacred Body and Blood for us to consume. Notice: not just see or worship from afar, but to take within-His Precious Divinity so that we ourselves become transfigured. Creation-in the world around you God upholds His creation and stimulates it with His very being. So go out this summer and enjoy what He is giving you-all around you. St Augustine said all the beautiful things of creation point to the Beautiful One Who made them. Make the connection! In Community: in people Christ reveals Himself-not just in your friends but also in the poor and sick and dying-are you seeking Him herein?

I just visited a family for dinner nearby Mary's Mountain and heard a remarkable thing. The mom said that the whole family is trying, in light of the recent Middle East violence, especially in Lebanon, to avoid any kind of fighting or even disagreements. True. Peace must begin in our homes and as one of the children of this family said, wisely, We should not only pray for peace, we must work at it. Yes: all of us, right where we are! If we can have peace where we are perhaps they can, too, in Israel.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi