I am certainly guilty of this… sometimes I can only see the “eye” in this picture; sometimes I see a butterfly wing. And, when I am whole, awake and aware, I see both clearly. The point of view colors the the way we see our world, our friends, our universe, our God.
Today’s Gospel is the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) — Paraphrased it goes like this:
Jesus takes Peter, John and James up to the mountain to pray. As usual, they doze off while Jesus prays and is transfigured ( I think transformed might be a good word for the event) as he hears from Moses and Elijah about his mission and what is to come. The sleepyheads come full awake and behold the Jesus in his glory. They of course want to stay in this wonderful time/space and make a memorial. But, God says — “This is my chosen Son. Listen to him.” In the end, the leave the mountain and keep their mouths shut about what they have seen, at least for the time being.
My first thought was that the Transfiguration says a lot more about the disciples than it does about Jesus. Jesus was still Jesus, but he was being seen in a new light. They began to get a glimpse of what was really happening. They saw the light. They were touched. They began to see differently. And God spoke to them.
Upon a second reading, I begin to see that Jesus was changed — I think that as he prayed, he came to see himself differently and more clearly and that change just couldn’t be hidden. It had to shine. It had to show.
Along my current path, where I find myself questioning the institutional church, its teachings, its functioning, its place in my life I also heard the words that God said: “This is my chosen Son. Listen to him.” In the Gospels, I am having difficulty finding any references to Worship Jesus. I find the verbs listen & follow. It’s proving difficult for me to reconcile the stories of the biblical Jesus with current church practices. I know it must be possible because people like Pope Francis seem to be able to live out the Gospel and still work within the Church.
Still thinking. Still praying. Still seeking.
A few weeks ago I was in a small group sharing, and one person began to share about recent a Bible study session where the subject got around to wrath. What is wrath? Is it okay to be angry? That sort of thing. Some folks of course thought it was ok to be angry and others thought is was sinful.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines wrath as extreme anger with the Full Definition of WRATH as:
- strong vengeful anger or indignation
- retributory punishment for an offense or a crime : divine chastisement
I found this whole pattern a bit unsettling. Anger is. And asking if it’s okay to be angry or is it sinful is just the wrong question.
Anger alerts me to the fact that I feel threatened, or hurt or disrespected. Or that I sense that someone or something I love is in danger or hurting or being disrespected. Anger can fire me up to take action. The classic example of that might be Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers in the Temple.
The first step, IMHO, is to step back when I am angry and look deeper. If I accept that I am God’s beloved child, then often the anger begins to subside — after all, what that other person did or said cannot actually kill or harm that part of me that is God’s child. Or, I can move beyond anger to sorrow that someone else is so broken that they would do some of the horrible things that are being done in this world. If I can move beyond anger I might just get to a place where I might actually be able help in righting a wrong, or healing a hurt.
Yes — anger is a big red flag. It is a sign that something is wrong. Might be something wrong inside me, or something wrong in the world around me. But asking if it is a sin? That’s just the wrong question.
A part of my daily routine is to read Richard Rohr’s Reflection that arrives in my inbox each morning. Some days it seems we are on totally different roads. Other days, we are both in a place where it feels like I can sit and listen, share and reflect and grow toward God. Today, was one of the “Aha!” days.
Today, he mentioned the admonition not to “eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” That particular section of Genesis has always bothered me a bit. Why not? Isn’t is good to know good from bad? As I have grown [older] I find it less bothersome. I find that judging what is good and who is evil is a task best left to one with better vision, understanding and compassion than I. Life is much more of a joy if I leave as much of that judgement up to God and simple attempt to love those around me, wherever, however I find them. Maybe not simple, but certainly less oppressing.
The older I get, the more I realize that we all are both saint and sinner, good and evil. I find that the mailman who is deemed to be difficult and disliked by one set of neighbors is the same person who carefully delivered the mail to the door for another neighbor who was weak from chemo as she fought cancer. I find a priest who has caused me great personal anguish and pain through his own anger to be the same person who so often led me to great insight and spiritual growth. I must learn not to just the parts, just try to love the person.
The “Aha!” moment — seeing this “forbidden fruit” as something that will truly cause us more pain and suffering… a sort of warning that doing this, eating of this fruit will not work out so well as we imagine. Of course, like most children, we don’t really believe it until we make the mistake for ourselves, and then it can be hard to let go of it. Trying to be judge and jury and getting trapped brings to mind a story of a friend’s son.
They were at a mall and he kept trying to poke his head through the railing to look down at the level below. His mom instructed him repeatedly “Don’t do that! Don’t put your head through there!” Of, course, as a eight year old boy is wont to do, he did it anyway. And his head got stuck. Panic ensued. Mall security and more was called in to extract him from the railing. The resulting extraction was unpleasant at best.
When he was finally freed, his Mom turned him to face her an asked “Why did you do that? Didn’t you hear me tell you not to? Didn’t you know you weren’t supposed to do that?”
His response: “Yes, you told me. But, I didn’t know it would HURT!”
Ah — how often have I had that same reaction?
Aaahh! The cycle of the Easter season. First there is Holy Week topped off with the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday morning joy. Then we begin to roll through the season. Last week was not only Divine Mercy, but it is what I refer to as “Doubting Thomas” Sunday. And today is Emmaus — “Jesus — where are you? Oh! there you are! Where’d ya go?”
I seem to be in a valley of doubt these days. At times, I climb to a hill of “just not inspired.” It bothers me more that I don’t seem to be as bothered as I should be by all of this. I find growth in my walk on a yoga mat, not at mass. I question just how much I believe all of this Christianity stuff. And yet, I’m not drawn to give it up either. I have developed a great sense of apathy about it.
Along comes Emmaus. The people on the road, explaining to the man among them that they had such hopes, but fear they were wrong. They are disappointed and dismayed. He listens. He chastises them a bit. And, when they break bread (he breaks the bread) – they see! Joy! and then he disappears from their sight. Hmmm.
I suppose what I must learn to do is to be awake and never miss the insight, the vision that comes with breaking bread and seeing Jesus/Christ. I often think how it would be so nice if I could just show up for mass, and get my fix, get my glimpse. You know — head out to the store to pick up some faith. Pick my flavor as well. Doesn’t seem to work that way.
For now, Emmaus is a promise that if I walk the road, and stay awake and open to the breaking of bread, I will likely receive what I need to continue. In yoga class the instructors are always reminding us that it is a “practice.” I think that as a Christian, I must remember that it too is a “practice” — it is never complete, or perfect or done. At least not in this world. Emmaus is hope that I will get enough of a glimpse that I continue to walk.