Second Sunday of Lent at Mississippi Abbey
I suppose you heard about the time Fr. Jonah was on the tour of the Holy Land that St. John’s Collegeville sponsors. They would visit various sites where Jesus taught or visited like the mount of the Beatitudes or places around Jerusalem or even Mt. Tabor and the professor would say they think Jesus was here but the scholars don’t really think so. Jonah either said out loud and thought to himself, “We could have visited Cincinnati he wasn’t there either”
I thought of that story since today’s Gospel mentions Mt. Tabor and the transfiguration. Most of us have never been to Mt. Tabor or the Holy Land for that matter but Jesus transcends time and space and where and how he lived is somehow played out in our life. I like what St. Ann Seaton said about the spiritual life – she said it is simply the mysteries of Christ life being relieved in our life. I find that a profound statement and would like to apply it to Christ’s Transfiguration. One way to do this is to consider what St. Paul says about our life. He says there are two simultaneous movements going in it. One he calls our outer nature which is wasting away day by day and the other he calls our inner nature which is being renewed day by day.
Our outer nature is visible and we have direct experience of it; our inner nature is invisible and we do not have direct experience of it. In today’s Gospel Jesus’ inner nature is revealed to Peter, James and John directly and to us indirectly. We hear and believe and occasionally we get a glimpse of our inner life which is compared to looking at a foggy mirror, you see but not clearly.
Jesus was at prayer when he was transfigured but the Gospel says the disciples were sleeping and when they became fully awake they witnessed Jesus in glory. In a similar way we are asleep to the great mystery unfolding in our life and only when we become fully awake at death will we see the Glory of Jesus revealed and as Paul says and we with Jesus. Then the text says the disciples entered a cloud where they heard the voice of God. The cloud could represent a type of prayer called the prayer of quiet where your faculties are put to sleep as it were. Think of it this way, when your memory is inactive or asleep, and your imagination is silent and your emotions are idle and your intellect and will are still and your whole being is at rest, what is left of your identity? You are more than these faculties, you are a spiritual being with a soul or a heart made in the image of God. What is left is your inner being, a place where God’s life flows into our life, an inner fountain or a garden enclosed. Merton calls it a place of nowhere because it has no one name. He says, “At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal.
St. Bonaventure says at this inner place you can see God through yourself as through an image. He tells us “therefore enter into yourself and recognize that your mind loves itself most fervently as the image of God. This is the self-love that is meant when we are told to love our neighbor as our self. This love cuts through all the accidentals that make up the outer life of our neighbor and goes directly to the inner person who is united to us at the level of spiritual being.
So, Jesus is being transfigured day by day in the depths of our being and in the being of each sister in the community. After all you are united as the mystical body of Christ. Each one of us will wake up at the moment of death and what is now obscure will be fully revealed in dazzling light and we will be one with ourselves in Jesus at last.