Saturday, August 5, 2017

They have stolen the heart inside you, but this does not define you.

August 6, 2017

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Lectionary: 614

DN 7:9-10, 13-14

PS 97:1-2, 5-6, 9

2 PT 1:16-19

MT 17:1-9

Today my wife and I did some work in a few of the classrooms at the Church.  There were some new lights that had been purchased to replace the old dim ones.  It didn’t take us long at all to take the old lenses off and replace them with these bright, warm LED lights.  When we turned them on they truly lit up the room.  So much so that the light spilled over into the hallway and there was no doubt if the light had been left on, even with the sunlight streaming through the open windows.  It’s amazing how just replacing a light can really change the atmosphere of a room.

It’s also interesting to me how many details I found that I had missed before.  A shelf here, a pipe there, even a closet that I had never noticed.   With the room lit up, I began to notice details of things that needed to be fixed.  A receptacle marked “not working.”  An outlet with the wrong kind of cover.  Over here something that needed dusting and vacuuming.  A dim light tends to hide some of this, but the brighter the light is, the easier it is to notice flaws.  The room didn’t change.  I could just see the reality of what was going on in there.

That is such an important thing to remember about the Transfiguration.   Jesus wasn’t transformed on the mountain.   He didn’t magically become someone he wasn’t before they arrived.   Instead, the light that was always a part of him became apparent.  The glory of the Incarnation began to dawn on those men with him.   Moses and Elijah, the Old Testament and the Prophets, faded into the background and disappeared, leaving Jesus Christ and the new covenant spoken of by the Prophet Jeremiah.  Peter was so astounded that he wanted to just stay there.  He didn’t know how to handle the light that was shining out of Jesus, and more importantly, I imagine the deficiencies and things that needed fixing in his own life.

When I was a construction foreman one of the first things we did was get lights on. As bright as possible, as fast as possible.   Some men liked to just put a few incandescent lights up and barely light the place.   I wanted to see what I was doing.  To be able to look around the room and notice when a box wasn’t tightened, or a wire not pulled.  I didn’t want any mistake to be made because I couldn’t see.  Many of the other men working for different contractors, especially painters and finish workers, were very appreciative of the light.  It also allowed those of us installing lights to see smears and marks from fingerprints and oils.

When we finished mounting that first light today in the first-grade classroom, I went immediately to wash my hands.  I somehow missed this glob of grease on the top of my knuckle from using the tools in the garage, and when I put the light up and turned it on, there in the middle was a big dark streak.  It didn’t show up enough for me to really notice until the light was on.  Then there was no doubting that something was wrong.  I spent a while with some mild scrubbing cleaner and a rag buffing out the stain and now it was clean and unnoticeable.  

I imagine often that the Transfiguration must have been something like that to those men standing on the mountain.  Not only was it now starting to dawn on them that Jesus was who he said he was, but also that they themselves were entirely unworthy to be there.   Peter realizing how holy the place was, and maybe not wanting Jesus to go to Jerusalem and die, wanted to stay there forever.  For me, it seems that the closer we get to God, the more we ourselves do the same.   We want to stay where we are, where it’s comfortable and peaceful.  We don’t want to look at the stains and dark spots in our lives, the deficiencies and sinful thoughts, words, and actions.   Above all, we don’t want to have to be cleaned.

Why?  When I started cleaning the lens, I started with just water and a paper towel.   It wasn’t enough.  The thing about dirt is that it gets in the pores.   The surface was stained deep in.  It was only after I used the abrasive and scrubbed, making sure to get an even scouring, that I could clean the lens.  That meant taking off a small layer of plastic.  Sin our lives is much the same.  It isn’t easy to get rid of it.  It sometimes requires scrubbing, scouring, sanding.   The surface isn’t the only problem, but all those things under the surface that lead to the stain in the first place.

We have to then go through our lives figuring out exactly what is causing us to continue in this sin.   Then we have to start removing them.  Adding in things that help purify, the Sacraments, an active prayer life, corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and so forth.   Each of those acts as a ‘cleaner’.   It helps us to get rid of the self, to die to the ego, and become more like Christ.   Two things have to happen though.  First, we have to see the sin in our lives clearly.   Secondly, we have to want to get rid of it.

As I said before, sin is much more evident the brighter a room is.  A counter top with very little light can harbor a great deal of dust and debris.  When you put a spotlight on it, that’s when you start to notice even the smallest grain of dust.  In the second Letter of Saint Peter, we find him saying that the Message the Apostles brought to them is one of utmost importance.  To pay attention to it, like a lamp shining in a dark place.  When it’s dark, the lamp lights up the area around it.  If you move too far away, you lose the light.  If you want to see something you take it closer to the lamp, lean in and hold it up to it.  You get as close as you can to the light so that what you need to see is right out in the open.

That’s what the Church is for us.   A lamp on a hill, not hidden but out in the open.    A light source for us to come to help us light the way to Heaven itself.   The Sacraments pick us up, dust us off, and help us examine our lives and remove that which keeps us away from God’s will.   The Eucharist is the communion between the bride and the groom, the moment when two become one when human frailty is offered a share of the divine life.  God wants you to know who you are!  

In the Movie Moana (yes I know, I’ve seen it too much), you see the demon Te Ka being transformed into Te Fiti.  It wasn’t that there were two people there.  It was the same person.  Her heart had been stolen and she had drifted into a place of darkness and fire.  Through the help of Moana, she was able to see who she was, have her heart healed and restored, and her inner beauty was revealed to the world.   

How many of us have had our hearts injured or stolen?  Broken and dashed on the ground for the pleasure of another?   How many of us have forgotten who we are?  The Eucharist reminds us that we are the spotless bride of Christ!  It’s only when we drift too far from the groom that we begin to forget that, that we start to lose who we are.   I think that also reminds us that every person we encounter, every single one, regardless of what they look like on the outside or how they act, has an inherent dignity of being made in the image of God.   Don't’ forget who they are!  Just because you fail to see the person you think you should see, does not mean that the one God created them to be is not still on the inside… waiting to be revealed by His light and love.

So on this Feast of the Transfiguration of The Lord, let us reach out to those who are hurting.  Let us not remain on the mountain alone, building tents to remain in and save God for ourselves, but instead let’s go down the mountain and journey with Jesus toward our own Calvary.  It is in dying to ourselves, in getting as close to the Light of God as we can, in allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us as much as possible, that we begin to be transfigured ourselves.   It is then that the image that has always been inside of us begins to come forward, begins to shine from us.  Are you ready for that?  Are you ready to be a light that helps illuminate the world?  It starts with one step, followed by another. It takes letting Jesus restore the heart that has been broken inside you, that the person you were created to be can truly shine forth.