[Anticipated Mass at the End of the ADDU UCEAC Festival, 2014]
In recalling the mystery of the Transfiguration in our Lenten liturgy this afternoon, we recall how in Jesus Christ, light breaks through darkness, and divinity manifests itself in Jesus’ humanity.
We recall it in the season of Lent, when we are invited to return to the person of Jesus Christ. Through our baptism, we recall, we have become Christians; we have been baptized into the suffering and death and resurrection of Jesus. That we know is a primary source of meaning for us. But sometimes, that meaning recedes into a shadowy hazy background. Too much hustle and bustle, too much wear and tear, too many chased dreams and deadened deadlines! Through the roll out of events in our lives, determined by obligations we have to those whom we love and desire so fervently to provide well for, determined by the professional commitments which we have made which bring us income but which also engage us in working with students, colleagues and clients, determined by the voluntary commitments we make which are beyond income but make the ideals which define our spirit true, performance, self-interest, or reputation take center stage, pushing to the periphery such defining realities as grace, gratuity and the glory of God. If this has become so in our lives, if activity has turned to activism, and over-work has turned into frustration, anger, and eating innocent people up, Lent is the season when we are invited to return to Jesus. We are invited to recall that even in his life, as he proclaimed the Gospel, as he proclaimed his message of the Kingdom of God, as he insisted on actual love of God and neighbor, he too was confronted by darkness and near despair. That was when he went up to the mountain and was transfigured. Light broke through. And divinity.
His was a message of light that darkness could not comprehend. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he said. “Blessed are the poor.” Darkness disputed that message: “How fortunate the rich,” it said. “How lucky those who are comfortable, powerful, successful.”
His message was open, clear, bright: “There is a God. That God is my Father. He is a God of compassion and love. His compassion and love should rule. In this rule is happiness and fulfillment.” Darkness could not comprehend that either. “There is a God, but I control access to this God.” Darkness says. “I will make the rules, I will prescribe the rituals by which you can access this God. There is a God, but this God obeys me. It is not I who serve God, it is God who serves me.” Otherwise, darkness says: “There is no God. We’ve outgrown God. We’re smart enough not to need God. Happiness is in acquiring first things that other people covet; happiness is consuming goods and service other people can never enjoy.”
His message was of love. “Love one another, as I have loved you.” Darkness could not comprehend this. Its message: “Love yourself. Take advantage of other people. Relatives and friends are for you to exploit.”
His message was clear: Salvation is determined not on what you know, nor on the monuments that you have built, nor on the number of books you have written but on how you have loved your neighbor, especially the poor and the marginalized – whether you have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the imprisoned, helped the wounded stranger on the wayside. “Whatever you have done [or not done] to one of these the least of my sisters and brothers, that you have done [or not done] to me.” Darkness especially does not comprehend this. The poor are the weak of whom the strong must take advantage; the poor are the ignorant whom the educated must exploit. They poor are the helpless whom the powerful must convert into workhorses or traffic as sex objects. The poor are the lowly who must be kept ignorant and in their place, so that the rich can continue enjoy the power and privileges which their rank and wealth bestow on them.
The light challenges the darkness. But in the tug of war between the light and darkness, darkness can seem overwhelming.
That we know even as we celebrate the service that has been mediated by the University Social Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC). Darkness can seem overwhelming. The opposition to the light is daunting. Because self-interest commands powerfully, avarice accumulates daemonically, and pleasure consumes voraciously. Sometimes, in moments of weakness, light casts long shadows in ourselves: in our fickleness, our fears, our vanity, our fatigue, our sinfulness. In this context, the Gospel of the Transfiguration may speak more intimately to us: when darkness seems overwhelming, light breaks through; when humanity seems defeated, divinity breaks through. That was the Cross: when darkness was darkest, there was purest Light. Today’s Gospel invites us to recall the Light, to affirm the source of Light, and to take the time out to go to a lonely spot to be transfigured in God’s light and to be transformed in God’s divinity.
We thank God for the gifts he has given our community: for its joy of helping people in need; for its courage to stand up for the truth; for its evidenced willingness to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and to hunger and thirst for justice. May the Lord keep us in his light – so that in humanity, we can always find community with those in need, and experience divinity in times of sacrifice. May his reign find in us true servants, especially of the least of our sisters and brothers. In this service, may we continue to find joy!