Not long ago the Sunday Gospel was the Transfiguration — Jesus takes Peter, James and John up the mountain where they see Jesus as he truly his. The gospel says “transfigured”, but in many ways it seems to be transformation or metamorphosis. Like the resurrection where Jesus becomes the Christ.
The interesting term to me is “metamorphosis” — that would be the Greek variant. Most of us are familiar with a couple of regular metamorphosis events: Caterpillars wrap themselves in a cocoon and emerge as a butterfly (or moth or some other lovely winged creature) and tadpoles grow legs and lungs and absorbs their tails and become frogs. In each case, it is movement from what is to what was always meant to be. Each creature is growing into its “true self.” That caterpillar was always meant to be the butterfly, the tadpole was always meant to be the frog, Jesus was always meant to be the Christ and, I believe, each person is meant to be a part of the Body of Christ.
How that happens is different for different creatures: the caterpillar wraps itself in a cocoon, goes into hiding and if I understand correctly, in that cocoon is an intermediate stage, a pupa, that in its time transforms into a butterfly. The transformation is made in the dark of the cocoon… and when the butterfly emerges, it must do it on it’s on. If someone tries to help it, or do it for the butterfly, then the butterfly generally dies.
That tadpole is a bit more transparent. You can safely watch as legs begin to grow. You can see the tail being absorbed. You can watch each step as it happens.
Some of us are caterpillars while others are tadpoles. Both are becoming what they are meant to be. The butterfly doesn’t get to say to the frog “Hey — you did it all wrong!”; the tadpole doesn’t get to say to the caterpillar — “Hey! You can’t hid while this transformation/metamorphosis is happening.” And Jesus didn’t say “My particular cross is the only cross…”
Let each one be transformed/metamorphosed/transfigured in the way that works. And rejoice in the many paths to the True Self.
The tables are turned, I suppose. Those brothers and sisters of mine within the tent of the Roman Catholic Church who found great comfort in previous Popes who often focussed on devotions and rules and fairly strict behavioral and belief rules are now faced with a Holy Father who is willing to say “Who am I to judge?” or who is willing to face our need to care for our brothers and sisters without so much judgement, or who is willing to proclaim that we are stewards of all creation, and look at the mess we’ve made of that job.
To me, it seems that Francis is calling us to be transformed by our faith in God — our faith in the Trinity — so God, Jesus the Christ and the Spirit. He is calling on us to actually interact with the world from that place of transformation. To let go of our assumed superiority, or presumed chosen-ness and be agents of love and change in our world. To be the salt of the earth.
Sometimes, that flies in the face of rigid rules. Sometimes that forces us to look beyond the letter of the law to the spirit of the law. And, sometimes when I hear the criticism of relativism, I want to say “And you make that [relativism] sound like a bad thing. Really?”
As best I can tell, Jesus said “Follow me.” — not “Worship me.” Following, walking in His footsteps, trying to see the world as He saw it is far more life changing that worshipping Him and keeping change at a distance — don’t you think?
I waited anxiously for this election to be over. I was massively let down when my fears proved true. And the first week or so of aftermath has not eased any of my concerns or fears. Even if some folks have been reasonably quiet.
This morning I read a tirade from a white woman who, during the election season, was so anti-Hillary it just about burned in her eyes. She wanted to know why she, as a “white woman” should feel guilty for any transgressions/aggression against minorities. She took the stand I hear many, too many, of us take: I didn’t do anything wrong. The past is the past. Get over the past.
And I thought about it. And I tried to listen to God and glean some wisdom in this area.
Jesus said “Follow me.” I believe that means all the way to the cross. Yes, we believe that Jesus died for all our sin(s). If you follow Him, I think you must also be willing to die for the sin(s) of others. To truly follow is to walk with, and to emulate that which you follow. And so, to those of us who profess to be Christians: Doesn’t if follow that we take on the sin(s) of the world, just as Jesus did? And be willing to die to it and be recreated in Christ? To rise again?
I found the following in today’s email reflection from Richard Rohr:
We seem to think God will love us if we change. Paul clearly knows that God loves us so we can change. The only people who change, who are transformed, are people who feel safe, who feel their dignity, and who feel loved. When you feel loved, when you feel safe, and when you know your dignity, you just keep growing! That’s what loving people do for one another–offer safe relationships in which we can change. This kind of love is far from sentimental; it has real power. In general, you need a judicious combination of safety and necessary conflict to keep moving forward in life.
This is a “thank you” to those who have given me the time and space to feel safe, to feel I do have dignity and let me know that I am loved. I’m not going to name names, but I do thank you. I only hope that I can bring these things to someone else.
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.