MY HEART JUST, this instant, became suddenly aware of the extent to which this feast of the Transfiguration, and the events surrounding its celebration was a lavishness of His love, His mercy.
Graced gift, wherein I was suddenly some twenty years ago, granted yet another moment in which to choose!
To choose between the blessing or curse placed before me, that embrace of love or His refusal, of life or the continued death I was living [Dt. 30: 11-20]!
It was a day in the year dubbed in the press as the “year of three popes! “
IT IS ONE of those sunny, yet cool, spring afternoons as I begin to write again.
In this house of the infirm, where I have been living and serving for some time, along with my duties as chaplain for the hospital, we are holding, today, a fund raiser through the sale of flowers.
Thus the whole place is ablaze with beauty!
My heart looks at the faces of the elderly and the infirm.
Before the beauty of any human face all other beauty fades into the background.
It is the reflected radiance of Your Holy Face, O Incarnate One, O Transfigured One, O Suffering One, O Most Glorious Risen One!
I ponder many mysteries in my heart today: human suffering, sin, death, grace, conversion, ordination, priesthood, hiddenness, this moment!
It is striking, the insistence of St. Paul, that the transformation of the person is connected to the renewal of our mind — in a word — a radical conversion of the way we think. [Col. 2: 6-8]
It is a matter of opening wide not only our hearts but the entire resource of our intellect, imagination, memory, to Divine Wisdom, that we become purified of the shackles of any philosophy, mode of thinking, attitude, rationale, which is contradictory to our God given sacred dignity and person.
During that mysterious long, hot summer, so many decades ago, I was indeed, not merely captivated by, but an advocate of, empty philosophy, and the sheer weight of that emptiness was crushing my being.
I remember that August was ferocious with its heat and humidity, as if the doors of hell hadbeen opened and the heat from that infernal fire was loosed upon the earth.
At the beginning of the month the man who was at that time my companion, left, as they say: ‘for the coast ‘.
For a few days I gave into my old habitual patterns, but there was within me a distinct lack, both of energy and enthusiasm.
Some weeks previous I had gotten word my spiritual director — whom, frankly, I long had considered to be my ‘former’, spiritual director — would be in the city to address a national Catholic Charismatic rally and that he wanted to see me.
The event was to take place in the local sports stadium on August 6th.
For the world: the horrific anniversary of the first use of the atomic bomb against human beings, against our brothers and sisters.
It was a day I’d normally be in some protest against such weapons.
For the Church: the celebration of the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
As the sun rose, that particular morning, it was already extremely, brutally hot.
The light and heat sweeping across the balcony, through the open glass doors, slammed into my face with such hot force I awoke feeling my face was blistering.
Opening my eyes the intense light burned as if I had my face right against a strobe light flashing before my eyes.
My being shuddered with a dual sensation of fear and anticipation.
There were hours to go before the rally where my former spiritual director would be speaking.
Time enough to go to that other rally where I would join my voice with others, and groups across the globe, crying out for an end to the seemingly relentless lemming-like drift of the militarists towards a nuclear holocaust.
By mid-afternoon I left the rally and headed towards the stadium.
The city, it seemed to me, was already broiled to a crisp.
The ravaging by the extraordinary beating down of sun’s heat and light seemed to have inflamed my entire being.
When I arrived at the stadium I was astounded not only to see the place packed, the large numbers of Bishops and priests processing towards a raised platform in the middle of the football field, a platform on which was an altar, but even more so by the impassioned energy and enthusiasm of the assembled people.
This was too much religious fervour for me.
I climbed into the higher rows of seats, figuring if I stayed away from the density of the crowd, and especially far out of line of sight with that altar, I’d be protected from whatever, all day long, my being seemed to sense was about to happen.
I was sensing within me an odd mixture of fear, and anticipation.
Suddenly a mitred Bishop approached the makeshift pulpit and motioned for everyone to be quiet.
He announced he had just been informed Pope Paul VI was seriously ill.
The Bishop then called for prayer as a strange murmur washed across the crowd, a murmur not unlike that of a family who has just been told their father is dying.
Suddenly I was thrust back in my imaginative emotions to the sixties and the horrendous anger which I carried when this Pope came out with Humane Vitae.
I had never read the actual encyclical, of course.
I uncritically believed everything both the secular and the rebellious ‘catholic’ press of the time had to say.
After all I was a champion of social justice and what the Pope had done, refuse the pill, was unquestionably an injustice.
How darkly ignorant was I in those days about the extent to which I had been captivated by a secular, empty philosophy, by lie.
After what seemed about a half hour the Bishop interrupted the Mass and approached the microphone once more.
I remember sitting there in that instant as if I were reviewing my entire life and an immense hunger to be real was welling up inside of me.
Yet at the same time there was a strange taste in my mouth as if an immense, sour, blackness was being regurgitated.
I had no idea who I was.
It was as if I were standing beside that seat, looking down at a pathetic lost child.
In a broken voice the Bishop announced that Pope Paul was dead.
Suddenly all around me people were sobbing.
I sat there, stunned, rigid, as if I had no idea what was happening.
Bishops, priests, nuns, old men, women, younger people, children, the police doing crowd control, everyone, it seemed, was sobbing.
How could this be?
How could these people weep over the death of that man?
Only these decades later do I see clearly now, understand, they were weeping over the death of their father, their shepherd.
Perhaps the first awareness was that the wetness on my face felt different from the sweat that had bathed me all day long; perhaps the first awareness was the hug given me by a woman who herself was weeping.
Perhaps it was that I too had been looked at. [Lk. 22: 61]
I don’t recall much after that, not until the whole event was over and I went to search out the priest who still saw himself as my spiritual father.
When I found him near the exit, where he had sent word weeks before we were to meet, he instantly apologized for being in a rush. Then before I could say a word he said he was leaving The Community but would be in touch and he ran to catch the bus!
Jesus had come to Jericho.
I had, so I thought at any rate, started to climb the tree.
Before I did so, Jesus had just taken off on a bus!
In that instant the immense heat seemed to engulf me once more. Within my being it seemed too that whatever I had unknowingly anticipated had been snatched away, or rather taken off on that bus.
How utterly wrong, as time would tell, I was.
How utterly ignorant too of the way the Divine Lover works, in the garden enclosed.
Sin is a terrible burden, the weight of the whole world’s evil pulling our hearts into a darkness worse than annihilation. It begins so simply with little acts of rejection or mere non-acceptance that hook into our infantile need for total love and create in us fear and rage, guilt and sadness. By the time we reach adulthood, even if we have been baptized as babies and raised as Christians, almost all of us have chosen again and again and again to be accomplices in our own rejection. We choose to be woven into the web of selfish fear that is the world’s darkness. We choose to believe in the absence of God, and that absence weighs on our hearts with such constant force that we think it is as normal as gravity.
Then one day, who knows when, we hear that Jesus is passing by. Perhaps we have heard it every Sunday of our lives, but this day that weight of God’s absence in us at last wearies us beyond pride, beyond fear, breaks through to that core of us where we are all emptiness, all longing, and we want only to know one thing; what kind of man is this Jesus? Suddenly, without knowing how we got there, we are up in that tree with Zaccheus, our whole being in our eyes, looking for the face of Jesus. And Jesus looks at us and says, ‘ Hurry up and come down! I MUST stay at your house today. ‘ [Lk.19:5]
All that waiting, all those dreadful years, and it turns out that God has been waiting for us.
…….REPENT means to turn around, to stop believing in the absence of God, to stop building a life without Him, to stop trying to find rest by our own efforts –and, like Zaccheus, to start climbing the tree of salvation so that we can see the life-creating face of Jesus. [by]