Justice Reflections From Fr. Claude

Feast of the Transfiguration 2023

August 6th is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus. It is also the 78th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb followed three days later, on August 9th with the bombing of Nagasaki. Nagasaki was strongly Catholic city and the plane that dropped the bomb was blessed by a Catholic Chaplain. These events brought about a catastrophic ‘transfiguration’. The effects of these continue to the present and the threats of nuclear war are continually before us.


The gospel has Jesus climbing a mountain with his closest friends where Jesus and the disciples have a profound experience. There is a dazzling light, a cloud that overshadows them, a cloud that terrifies them, and a voice. In the transfigured Jesus, the disciples saw who he was but also who we are and what we are created to be. What they saw and thought of as a momentary glimpse of the divine was a revelation of the deepest meaning of their everyday history. The mountain top experience gave them a glimpse of Jesus that stretched their imaginations where they saw themselves as part of something bigger – to be instruments of a justice and compassion that called for courage. This feast is a powerful opportunity to hold out to us and to others the hope-filled image of God’s transforming or transfiguring power.

On the mountain top and at the bottom of the mountain [our world] God’s voice can be heard: ‘Listen to Jesus!’ Listening to him reveals what true religion is – a religion that engages with our world. Jesus does not point away from the world. The one who is transfigured on the mountain will soon be disfigured on the cross and points to the disfigured in the world. Jesus draws us into the human drama of brokenness and healing. We look back to the transfiguration and look ahead at our world.

Peter suggests a cosy permanent dwelling place on the mountaintop, but the words ‘This is my Son, the beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ are a call to leave the mountain top level for the human project of peace with justice and liberation for all people and the rest of creation. We need to make space where the ‘mountain’ of God is not a past shrine but a meeting place where God holds us precious and calls us to envision a future of peace and justice on our planet. As we celebrate Jesus and the disciples climbing up a mountain, we also remember how pilots climbed into the cockpit of a war machine to use a secret weapon with maximum psychological effect against a people already defeated.


This feast also commemorates a disfiguration. Though associated with the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 - it goes back to 1456 to celebrate a Hungarian victory over the Turks. The disfiguration continues as we remember the mushroom-shaped cloud that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki and what we keep doing to our siblings and the Earth.


As we commemorate Hiroshima Day on August 6, a voice calls us to listen through a cloud. When Jesus was baptised a heavenly voice was heard: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.’ Here today, God’s voice is heard again ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ But who is listening when God is speaking through so many voices against the evil of nuclear possessions, the manufacture of more lethal weapons, threats against nations, the abuse of power, everyday hatred, rivalry, violence, greed, bullying and disfiguring of peoples’ reputations? The call from the mountain is to proclaim by our lives, our actions, and words, who Jesus is and his message of peace. We have a choice. Every choice we make can be liberating or diminishing of others and our world. The Transfiguration was a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. Hiroshima was a turning point in human history. Both involved light. One was the light of love, life and hope and the other a deadly light, the death of everything for generations, of mass murder and ongoing threat.


Our history continues to be a holocaust of human hatred and the slaughter of innocent people. For 78 years we have lived with the reality that can destroy every life form God so lovingly created. This is an extreme, dramatic example of how we on earth treat one another, how fearful we can be when we feeling threatened, how easily we forget why we were created, despite what God desires and longs for us to become. It illustrates how easy it is for us to pervert the energies God has created.


The disciples saw him in a different light. They momentarily comprehended something more about him. They discovered that by going back down the mountain and returning to the world amongst ordinary people which was Jesus usual way of revealing who God is. We have to come down from that mountain to be amongst our siblings where Jesus continues to reveal himself and God’s heart to us. In the midst of war and violence, the gospel invites us to see the presence of God and God’s invitation to peace. Jesus offered a simple humanity which had a greater potential for glory. It means looking people in their faces, their eyes, their tone of voice: ‘Listen to them! Learn from them how they have learned to live as God’s beloved and are empowered to love as we are loved.’ The message today is to show us what we can become when we are open to transforming love.


We learn today that it is possible to see things differently and act differently. It is possible to see God in others, to recognise their sacredness and dignity. It is possible that we can live together in our diversity, to work for peace at home and abroad, to let go of racism, to let go of hatred for homosexuals and gender diverse people, to let go of greed, power, to let go of the need to be in control, to give up violence in word and action, to let go of fear that leads to paralysis and inaction, to solve problems nonviolently, because we have been to the ‘mountain’ and come back knowing that God is in all things, all people, that we are sisters and brothers.


Hearing the words ‘listen to him’ might cause the disciples, and us, to remember Jesus’ opening words on another mountain top when he repeatedly talked about blessings - blessed are the poor, the meek, the peacemakers, the persecuted’ and we reminded of what mattered in God’s eyes here and now. They remember that to have eyes is to see suffering, grief, and not look away. They remember that they are blessed because they can see the footprint of God wherever they look; they remember that God’s way is the path of peace, not the power of the Empire. So, the gospel today holds up a red flag to any attempt to set Jesus apart from our world. Jesus does not stand alone in the universe and neither do we.


‘Listen to him’ despite the contrary voices in our world. There are voices that are provoking war more than peace. There are voices that do not hear the cries of the Japanese people for a nuclear free world. There are voices calling for peace and dialogue because we are siblings, such as Pope Francis. There are voices calling for acknowledgement of their presence for 60,000 years. There are voices of peoples impacted around the world because of climate change whether rising waters or ferocious fires. There are voices of people such as Papua and Kurdistan for independence. Listen to him calling to us through these voices by these and so many others.


This important day in the ministry of Jesus reminds us that he is revealing himself to us. We must not be distracted, we must be awake, and embody in our hearts and our will, the mission of the Christ which is to embody love of our enemies; doing good to those hate us; bless those who curse us; pray for those who hurt us and those we love. Let us proclaim by our words, our lives, our actions that we follow and listen to God’s beloved Son, who spoke and lived a way of love, and was called Prince of Peace. Let us not justify any action that diminishes another in God’s name. There have been and continue to be countless examples such as persecution of people for religious reasons, engaging in war, and capital punishment in many countries, the injustice that affects the poor.


Holy One, who satisfies our souls with good things,

Empower us to set our minds on you,

not on things only of the earth.

Fill any emptiness and fear with your grace.

Give us the courage to set aside that which perishes,

and to live in freedom —

speaking truth,

offering bread, shelter and comfort to others,

trusting in you, our Freedom, our Truth, our Bread.

In the name of Jesus, giver all good gifts, Amen.

Out In Scripture


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