- Published: Monday, 31 July 2017 08:48
LITURGY NOTES FOR THE 18TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR/ FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION.
Eighteenth Sunday of the Year/ Feast of the Transfiguration
Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we stand
We pay our respects to them for their care of the land
May we walk gently and respectfully upon the land.
I acknowledge the living culture of the ……..people,
the traditional custodians of the land we stand on,
and pay tribute to the unique role they play in the life of this region.
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where we are now gathered,
(the ……) and recognise that it continues to be sacred to them.
We hail them: as guardians of the earth and of all things that grow and breed in the soil; as trustees of the waters – [the seas, the streams and rivers, the ponds and the lakes] - and the rich variety of life in those waters.
We thank them for passing this heritage to every people since the Dreamtime.
We acknowledge the wrongs done to them by newcomers to this land and we seek to be partners with them in righting these wrongs and in living together in peace and harmony.
Reading I Is 55:1-3
Responsorial Psalm Ps 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18
Reading II Rom 8:35, 37-39
1. Jesus, you are the bread that gives life to the world: Jesus, have mercy.
2. Christ, you are the bread that strengthens us on the journey of life: Christ, have mercy.
3. Jesus, you are the bread that gives us fullness of life: Jesus, have mercy.
- Christ Jesus, you nourish us with your word: Jesus, have mercy.
- Christ Jesus, you feed us with your own body: Christ, have mercy.
- Christ Jesus, you call us to proclaim your word and share bread with others: Jesus, have mercy.
Compassionate God, [or: Abundant God]
Jesus, your Son,
gave food to all who were hungry.
Make us compassionate
and able to see the needs of those
who hunger for dignity, justice, and liberation
and as we work to bind their wounds
and appease their hungers
so that others may recognise that it is you
who nourishes us with your food and drink.
Prayer over the Gifts
Compassionate God, [or: Bountiful God]
we thank you for this bread and wine
which become for us
signs of Jesus’ presence in our midst.
May this bread of life strengthen us
and the wine of joy give us hope.
Let us lift up our hearts.
........We lift them to God.
Let us give thanks to the Living God.
........It is right to give God our thanks and praise.
It is indeed right to give you our thanks and praise, O God,
for you offer us the banquet that feeds us abundantly
and fills us with your presence.
You strove against the darkness and chaos,
and you prevailed,
bringing forth creation in all its miraculous abundance.
You challenged your servant, Jacob, face to face,
and gave him your blessing and promise.
From his family you formed your covenant people,
in whom your glory, your law, and your worship
were revealed to the world.
But now, in these last days,
your Messiah, Jesus, has emerged from among them,
bringing your compassion and healing to all.
Though he was cursed and cut off for the sake of his people,
you raised him from death.
Now in him you offer food for our deepest hunger,
and it is in holding tight to him
that we see your face and receive your blessing.
Therefore with .....
©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net
Deliver Us [after ‘The Our Father’]
Deliver us, Abundant God, from every kind of evil.
Keep us free from all kinds of judgment or condemnation of others.
Help us to accept and appreciate each other
and to prepare together in joy and hope
the full coming among us
of Christ Jesus, our Savior. .
R/ For the kingdom..
Breaking of the Bread
We break this bread
as a sign that Jesus himself was broken
to give us his life.
Let this breaking also be a sign
that each of us is willing
to share one's food and life with others
and to live together in peace with all.
The peace of Christ Jesus be with you always. R/ And also with you.
Prayer after Communion
Compassionate God, [or: Abundant God]
As Jesus multiplied the bread to feed the hungry,
multiply in us a capacity to love
so that we spread your peace with justice.
May we strive to act justly
by sharing generously the gifts we have received.
Introduction: We pray in the spirit of the Jesus whose heart was filled with compassion for those who were hungry and thirsting. We pray in response: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
1. For the pope, bishops and priests: that they strive to satisfy without compromise the people's hunger and thirst for the Good News – a news of love, justice, truth and hope, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
2. For those in authority: that they will make decisions that service humanity through peace and development rather than military spending that is designed to destroy human life and the life of the planet, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
3. For people who continue to suffer the effects of nuclear weapons in Japan; Agent Orange in Vietnam; and white phosphorus and depleted uranium in Iraq, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
4. For political leaders, scientists and economists of the world: that they may generously cooperate to solve the problem of hunger in the world and bring to a hungry world not only food but also dignity, justice and peace, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
5. For all our leaders that they may satisfy the hungers of the human family, particularly those hungering for freedom, understanding and human dignity, by proclaiming without compromise the Good News, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
6. For the sick and the lonely, those living with disabilities and discouragement: that our love and concern may be signs to them that God does not abandon them, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
7. For all of us here: that we may not concern ourselves alone with the immediate needs of ourselves and our families, but hunger for the higher goods of God's word and for the Eucharist, , we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
8. For the whole church, that it may assist people everywhere to discover and express their deepest aspirations and enrich them with the values of the family, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, satisfy our hunger for you, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
9. For people who are sick and lonely, for people living with disabilities and with HIV/AIDS, for people who are discouraged, for people who hunger for love and acceptance, that our concern and love may be a sign to them of God's closeness, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
10. For our world that hungers for peace, that as we commemorate Hiroshima Day today, we may join with all who live in conflict to remind them of our common humanity, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
11. For all people who do not have enough of what they require to sustain life, especially the people at the moment in the Horn of Africa, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
12. For all present here today, that we may occupy ourselves with immediate needs of family as well as hungering for your word in our lives by our generosity towards those we encounter, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
13. For all those who hunger for shelter, for work, and for food, for all those who hunger for justice and equality - that they not lose their dream of living one day in a community where each person is given according to his or her need, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
14. For all those in our worldwide community who have died of starvation and for the millions of women and men who have not even a piece of bread to eat - that the world's abundance will be shared equitably, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
15. For all people whose pain is unknown to anyone and who suffer without anyone to care for them, and for the people who care for other people without acknowledgement, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
16. For all those people and institutions who continue to use language that discriminates, leaving to one side ‘women and children’ - that we all might make greater efforts to be respectful with our language, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
17. For those who have loaned vast sums of money without due care to developing countries and yet refuse to lift from them the eternal yoke of debt - that they may recognize the terrible burden debt places on families in these countries, we pray: Satisfy our hunger, O God.
Concluding Prayer: Abundant God (or: Generous and loving God), gift us not only with a deep hunger for you, but a hunger for love, justice, freedom and compassion for all.
August 6 Feast of the Transfiguration
August 6 Hiroshima Day
August 6 Anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI
August 9 Nagasaki Day
In the face of the man-made calamity that every war is, one must affirm and reaffirm, again and again, that the waging of war is not inevitable or unchangeable. Humanity is not destined to self-destruction. Clashes of ideologies, aspirations and needs can and must be settled and resolved by means other than war and violence.
Pope John Paul II, Appeal for Peace, Hiroshima, Japan.
Nuclear deterrence as a national policy must be condemned as morally abhorrent because it is the excuse and justification for the continued possession and further development of these horrendous weapons.
US Catholic Bishops, The Morality of Nuclear Deterrence
The time has come to rid planet Earth of nuclear weapons-all of them, everywhere. Nuclear weapons, whether used or threatened, are grossly evil and morally wrong.
Cardinal Danneels, Statement to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee
‘.the arms race is an utterly treacherous trap for humanity, and one which injures the poor to an intolerable degree.’
Second Vatican Council Gaudium et Spes [Church in the Modern World]
This Conference resolves to call upon our respective governments to urge all nations to agree by treaty to stop the production, testing, stock-piling and usage of nuclear weapons and to press for an international mandate for all member states to prohibit nuclear warfare.
Archbishop Martino, Apostolic Nuncio, UN
We must all pray that no human hand will ever again do what has been done here.
Mother Teresa, Nagasaki, Japan.
(Today) excessive nuclear arsenals, their continued spread, and proposals to further develop and use them underscore the need for much deeper cuts in nuclear weapons and ultimately a global nuclear ban.
US Catholic Bishops 2003
Faith in an incarnational God will not allow us to ignore the physical world, nor any of its nuances.
Barbara Brown Taylor,
We do not detach ourselves from things in order to attach ourselves to God, but rather we become detached from ourselves in order to see and use all things in and for God.’
If you are coming to help me, you are wasting your time.
But if you are coming because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.
Lilla Watson, Aboriginal Elder and activist
At its core, global climate change is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures. It is about the future of God's creation and the one human family.’ You can read more about what we as Catholics can do at this website: http://www.catholicsandclimatechange.org/
U.S. Bishop's Statement on Climate Change (2001)
May I say to my Christian friends as powerfully as I can,
the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about love not hate,
acceptance not rejection.
It celebrates the essence of one's humanity.
It calls people beyond the prejudices
of tribe, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
It challenges those who have elevated their religious convictions
to the realm of infallible or inerrant truth.
But even more powerfully it calls
those of us who claim to be disciples of this Christ
to stand at the side of those our world would victimize,
to counter the rhetoric of religious prejudice,
to risk our lives for justice,
and to do it quite publicly.
Bishop John Spong
We learn to see the face of Christ - the face of Christ that also is the face of a suffering human being, the face of the crucified, the face of the poor, the face of a saint, and the face of every person – and we love each one with the criteria with which we will be judge: ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat.’
Archbishop Oscar Romero
This is the duty of our generation as we enter the twenty-first century –solidarity with the weak, the persecuted, the lonely, the sick, and those in despair. It is expressed by the desire to give a noble and humanizing meaning to a community in which all members will define themselves not by their own identity but by that of others.
We kill at every step, not only in wars, riots, and executions. We kill when we close our eyes to poverty, suffering, and shame. In the same way all disrespect for life, all hard-heartedness, all indifference, all contempt is nothing else than killing. With just a little witty skepticism we can kill a good deal of the future in a young person. Life is waiting everywhere, the future is flowering everywhere, but we only see a small part of it and step on much of it with our feet.
Hermann Hesse, German poet and novelist.
…...most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four; so that every word they say chagrins us, and we know not where to begin to set them right.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance, 1841
He who would do good’ wrote William Blake, ‘must do so in minute particulars. General good is the plea of the scoundrel, the hypocrite and the liar.’ It is also the plea of most political ideologues who do not hesitate, and often in the name of ‘the People’, to persecute in minute particulars for the sake of the general good.
Jeremy Taylor's, Ag Pleez Deddy, - a South African musician
Independence…. [is] middle-class blasphemy.
We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth
George Bernard Shaw
Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.
Buddha, Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta
I am a part of all that I have met
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Let us not measure the church by the number of its members or by its material buildings…. Many buildings have been stolen from her and turned into libraries and barracks and markets. It doesn’t matter. The material walls here will be left behind in history. What matters is you, the people, your hearts.
Archbishop Oscar Romero
Respect for human dignity and belief in the equal dignity of all the members of the human family demand policies aimed at enabling all peoples to have access to the means required to improve their lives, including the technological means and skills needed for development. Respect for nature by everyone, a policy of openness to immigrants, the cancellation or significant reduction of the debt of poorer nations, the promotion of peace through dialogue and negotiation, the primacy of the rule of law: these are the priorities which the leaders of the developed nations cannot disregard. A global world is essentially a world of solidarity!
Pope John Paul II, Audience with President Bush, July 23, 2002
When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall--think of it, always!
What our leaders and pundits never let slip is that the terrorists -- whatever else they might be -- might also be rational human beings; which is to say that in their own minds they have a rational justification for their actions. Most terrorists are people deeply concerned by what they see as social, political, or religious injustice and hypocrisy, and the immediate grounds for their terrorism is often retaliation for an action of the United States.
William Blum, US writer
For what is the crime of burglarizing a bank, compared with the crime of building one?
God of Justice,
open our eyes
to see you in the face
of those who are poor,
those who are oppressed and marginalised..
Open our ears
to hear you in the cries
of those who are exploited,
those considered to be nothing,
those abandoned and dismissed.
Open our mouths
to defend you in all places:
in public places,
at our work,
in our schools and universities,
in our workplaces and our streets,
as well as in our private deeds.
Remind us that what we do
to the least ones,
we do to you.
The most common way people give up their power
is by thinking they don't have any.
Action is the antidote to despair:
Prayer for Peace
May we be filled with the strength to seek peace.
War will not end when the guns are silent.
Violence can never lead to peace.
May we be filled with the courage to seek peace.
We grieve for the harm to our own country.
The degradation suffered here and in Iraq.
The contagious of fear and distrust,
The restriction of freedoms,
The quashing of dialogue and dissent.
We grieve the terrible wounding
of those sent off to fight in a war
that is questioned all over the world.
We grieve the rupture of families here and in Iraq.
May we be filled with the compassion to seek peace.
We are members of one human family.
We grasp the horror of war in all its forms.
And we struggle to embrace the suffering of all
with love and compassion.
May we be filled with the endurance to seek peace.
Recognizing our weakness.
We call on the God of mercy and compassion
to guide us in the days ahead.
May we be filled with the vision of peace.
Dominican Sisters, Houston, Texas.
you came to bring peace,
to offer reconciliation,
to heal the separation between people,
and to show how it is possible
for men and women to overcome their differences
and to celebrate their unity.
You revealed your God as a God of all people,
a God without resentments or desires for revenge,
a God who cares for each one of His children
with an infinite love and mercy
and who does not hesitate to invite them into His own house.
But our world today does not look like a world that knows you.
Our nations are torn by chaos, hatred, violence, and war.
In many places, death rules.
do not forget the world into which you came to save your people;
do not turn your back on your children who desire to live in harmony
but who are constantly entangled in fear, anger, lust, violence, greed, suspicion, jealousy, and hunger for power.
Bring your peace to this world,
a peace we cannot make ourselves.
Awaken the consciousness of all peoples and their leaders;
raise up men and women full of love and generosity
who can speak and act for peace,
and show us new ways
in which hatred can be left behind,
wounds can be healed,
and unity restored.
O God, come to our assistance.
O God, make haste to help us.
Adapted from A Cry for Mercy, by Henri J.M. Nouwen
Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this.
Lt Gen William Boykin, speaking of G. W. Bush, New York Times, 17 October 2003
A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.
It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do;
but what humanity, reason,
and justice tell me I ought to do.
Reflections on the readings
It is hard to read the Gospel story of the crowd which is fed without thinking about the reality of poverty in our world. When the hungry Oliver Twist asked, ‘Please, sir, I want some more,’ he had obviously not imbibed the culture of the work-house which Charles Dickens described as a place ‘without the inconvenience of too much food.’ The plaintive cry for ‘more’ is getting louder in East Africa as countless people experience hunger, water shortages and concomitant diseases. 16 million people are on the brink of starvation desperately needing food, water and medical treatment whilst we have the ‘burden’ of so much choice in our supermarkets, water flowing from our taps and high-quality medical care. This alone would make it almost impossible for us to relate to the millions of people just existing in deplorable and desperate conditions on the other side of the world.
The readings tell us that God hears the cry of the poor. Jesus hears that cry, too. Does the church and society in general hear the cry of world and of creation? Jesus’ hearing the cry of the poor is come out of his humanity and ability to connect with people, especially those who most marginalised and oppressed. It is this kind of seeing and hearing that results in the silencing of prophets and ultimately Jesus himself.
Failing to avoid the crowd, whilst trying to find an isolated place to grieve the killing of John the Baptist, Jesus responds with ‘compassion’ for a people left poor, excluded, isolated, leaderless and needlessly dying for political reasons by an oppressive system. There is also ‘rage’ or ‘fire in the belly’ because this is not how the world should be or how people should relate to one another. The Bible is filled of stories of refugees and the hungry, like today, where much of the population of antiquity lived on the razor’s edge of food insecurity, lack of shelter and the threat of exile or extinction. The number of displaced people in the world just hit a record high exceeding 65 million. One in every 113 people on the planet is now a refugee. Around the world, someone is displaced every three seconds, forced from their homes by violence, war and persecution. More than half the world’s refugees are children, many travelling alone or in groups in a desperate quest for sanctuary, and often falling into the clutches of people traffickers.’
The miraculous that occurred in the gospel was not a ‘popcorn miracle’ where five loaves became 5000 or two fish multiplied by 3000. The woman, the mothers in the crowd, must have followed Jesus’ example. What mother would not on leaving home for a day in the wilderness not pack food for her husband and children? They opened up what they had and shared with the people they had just encountered. It was a ‘miracle of enough.’ Everyone shared. So even the improvident were able to eat with plenty left over – 12 baskets Matthew tells us. But this miracle was not just about food. John Dominic Crossan says that the ‘miracle of loaves and fishes’ was not just about food but about just distribution. That is how God reign operates. God gives food, drink – the earth itself – to all without cost. This is what Jesus’ followers are called to imitate here and now. Today’s readings are not just about food and drink; they’re about just food and drink. They’re about sharing God’s free gifts rather than turning them into commodities to benefit the 1%.
Jesus feelings of compassion and rage guide his actions, choices and responses. They give birth to an alternative hope which is acted out by Jesus in making the love of God visible and present in our world. Jesus, being with people, shows that God is with people. Not just the men counted but the women and children, the elderly and poor, sick and even disreputable people, and today with indigenous people, people with various sexual orientations, the asylum seekers and the stranger. Here before Jesus, and us, is humanity. The gospel sets for us what discipleship involves – ‘you give them something to eat; don’t send them off to get food; don’t blame them for not having enough, or being unemployed, or for any other predicament. The central message is: ‘You give them something to eat yourselves.’ The intention is to model the whole gospel and his life for us.
When we hear the phrase ‘Not counting women and children’ various reactions are possible. The feeding story—and, in a quite different way, Jesus’ later encounter with a Canaanite woman—highlight the importance of women, surplus food, and children. Matthew often, does not highlight the known insiders (such as Peter) but nameless women, and today a generous child, who will represent the model of faithfulness. But bad things happen when women and children are not counted – they are actually more and more marginalised. As we reflect on this phrase we are reminded that our nation had its own version of ‘not counting’. Until 1967, it applied to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were not counted in the census. Now in 2017, they demand to have a voice too.
In 2011, Archbishop Desmond Tutu told an audience that God calls us to be partners in changing a ‘crazy’ world of extreme economic inequality. ‘Dream God’s dream. Dream as you go out into a world that is so unequal. Dream of a different world.’ He said, ‘When someone is hungry we do not see samosas floating down from heaven. If that hungry person is to be fed, this omnipotent God waits on us to be God’s partners so that the miracle of feeding the hungry happens.’
Tutu spoke out strongly against the current state of the world and its ‘obscene’ inequality where children die of preventable disease because they cannot afford very cheap vaccines; where many go to bed hungry when others wonder what they are going to do with their surpluses; where we spend billions on defence budgets when a small fraction would enable children everywhere in the world to have clean water to drink, enough food to eat, decent homes and affordable healthcare. Tutu told university graduates, ‘We need you to dream God’s dream of a world, a different kind of world, a compassionate world, a caring world, a sharing world. God says ‘I have no-one, except you.’ God says ‘Help me, please help me to realise my dream'‘.
To respond effectively as disciples, we need to have a contemplative attitude if we are to see deeply and respond humanly to the needs of others. To see more deeply can cause a wound within ourselves. To see, to recognise, to be aware, must inform all that we do – our relationships with others and our response to our world. It is also being open to surprise. People often not given a voice or left marginalised often can enrich us when we least expect it. Those who have lost the most, those who have paid the greater price in terms of lost hopes and dreams, those who are the so-called ‘losers’ know things about the world that those who are considered ‘winners’ or privileged do not. ‘From the lowest rung, you see things that aren’t visible from the top or the centre…. The unlucky know more of the world and its vulnerabilities than the lucky; the weak have a far better sense of that than the strong.’ [Mark Peel]. In many ways, the solutions to their problems and their needs are found within themselves and among themselves. And in the gospel today, Jesus hears the cry of the poor and puts their needs above his own – whether it be acceptance, companionship, friendship, presence, intimacy, respect, or food. These are the ones we are called to respond to: those not counted, not valuable, not respected, not numbered or included and often not even remembered. How we respond, how we rage at the injustice becomes the measure of our faithfulness and a sign of our friendship with Jesus and the quality of our worship.
The task can seem enormous. The gospel tells us about the many thousands who were fed by a little bit of bread and fish. The point of the story is precisely the hopelessness of this equation. The resources of the Gospel always seem hopelessly dwarfed by the world's power, the world's hunger, the world's sin, and the resources that the world itself seems to offer.
We are reminded that we are with the bread of life. We have what we need to feed the world. We do not need to go anywhere to buy anything. We have the resources already even though they often seem over matched, hopeless, dwarfed, nonsensical, even wishful thinking. We might feel puny and pathetic, not up to the task of feeding a hungry, greedy world. The point of the gospel today is to take up the challenge to roll the dice on the reality of the gospel. It is adequate to the task, both of feeding the world and defeating ‘empire’
Speaking of today’s Gospel, Henri Nouwen referred to the value of small things (Jesus, A Gospel, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, N.Y.: 2001). God chooses the small things that seem insignificant to the world, whereas ‘worldly wisdom’ prefers what is large, quick, efficient, impressive and elaborate. The little we have was/is enough for Jesus. In the feeding, according to Nouwen, a great mystery becomes visible. This is the way of God who will take the small things, like the little love we have, the little knowledge we have, the little advice we have, the few possessions we have, and multiply them. Another writer puts it this way: ‘each drop of empathy waters the flower of peace’ (Simon Baron-Cohen, Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty, AllenLane, London, 2011).
Mother Teresa tried to impress upon her sisters that ‘Charity begins today. Today, somebody is suffering. Today, somebody is in the street. Today, somebody is hungry. Our work is for today. Yesterday has gone, tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today to make Jesus known, loved, served, fed, clothed, sheltered. Do not wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow, we will not have them if we do not feed them today’ (The Joy of Loving, compiled by Jaya Chalika and Edward Le Joly, Penguin Group, New York: 2000).
It may be comforting to think of Jesus working a miracle with bread and fish. If Jesus doesn’t do the same for ‘those starving people,’ then how can they be our problem? But what if St. Teresa was right: Christ has no hands but ours? What if Jesus’ words to the disciples — ‘Give them some food yourselves’ — are words meant for us today? Whatever happened on that hillside so long ago, the lesson is this: There is more than enough. Whoever says otherwise is the devil speaking. There is abundance, and all we have to do is believe it and live as if we believe it. Then we will have the deep satisfaction of knowing that because of us, a stranger on the hillside of this world is also fed.
God’s gracious covenant with humanity is a challenge for us to recognise the dignity and humanity of all people, and to ensure that our attitudes, our ethics and our worship are free from exclusionary or diminishing language and practices, from dominance and power abuses, and from compliance with any system that unfairly oppresses or disadvantages some in favour of others. Essentially, we are called to become the people of God, welcomed at God’s table, and living as global citizens with a world-centric perspective and a God-inspired longing for healing, justice, peace and inclusion of all. It’s a dream, perhaps, but one worth striving for.
Jesus’ words to the disciples continue to ring through the centuries to us: ‘You feed them’. There is an old African concept – ubuntu – which simply translates as ‘human kindness’, but its scope really extends to (in the words of Liberian peace activist Leyman Gbowee) ‘I am what I am, because of who we all are’. We are one human race, more interconnected than we can even realise. While we may feel removed from this crisis in the safety of our island home, we are nonetheless part of a global community. May Australians fill their hearts with ubuntu, exude compassion and humanity in the face of this crisis, and show humanity to others. (Phoebe Williams This is not 'natural selection': east Africa is in the grip of a famine emergency The Guardian July 24, 2017)
Reflections for the Feast of the Transfiguration [August 6]
Today’s mountain-top scene is an important turning point in the Gospel story. It is a threshold moment, which makes a new alternative future possible. God calls us beyond the boundaries of our comfort zones whether that space is physical, cultural, religious, racial or one’s own family. As we focus beyond ourselves the impossible becomes possible. God’s word subverts our familiar world.
The Transfiguration for us, as for Jesus, is a matter of getting close to who we are, who we are meant to be, who we are meant to become. It was a transforming moment. The truth is that there is more to Jesus than the disciples thought. Where they had been enmeshed in the give and take of life, where survival means knowing what is what and looking out for number one, Jesus points to a different way of relating. There is no room for mere observers but entering into a circle of giving and receiving. The prophets often pointed to a vision of a transfigured world. Jesus lived that in his life, death and resurrection. It is an image of humanity as it was meant to be.
The ‘cloud’ in the gospel conceals and reveals. Clouds can conceal shapes, and can reveal shapes. 62 years ago a new kind of cloud took on an ominous meaning for the world in the shape of a mushroom. There was a blinding flash in the gospel story which was transfiguring. There was also the blinding flash of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which was disfiguring. This flash can enlighten us and give us an insight into what we are capable of: the capacity for evil and the capacity for good.
We are called to see that the basic power of the universe is not the atom’s destructive power but the power revealed in Jesus: God’s steadfast and binding love for each and every creature in the universe. This love holds us together, sustains us at every moment, and will come again to transfigure all things; the love that submitted to death for sake of all creation; the love that the forces of division and hate, of war and destruction cannot ultimately withstand. Jesus seems to always climb a mountain when he needs a new horizon - when the human struggle was draining, the demands great, the misunderstanding of his mission - the day to day blindness to the greater visions of the prophets - the dreams of God.
At its best, the church is the place to come to regain perspective - stretch the vision of our horizons beyond the day-to-day fickleness of joys and disappointments. There is a cry for a faith that makes sense in the streets, face to face with the concrete needs of others. The experience on the mountain gave the disciples a glimpse of the glory that got them out of the pressing crowds, away from the angry voices of the threatened, past the personal satisfaction of being part of a healing or miracle. It was to stretch their imaginations and desires beyond the limited roles of healers, miracle-workers, and teachers to see that they were part of a much larger picture. They were the instruments of a divine justice and compassion which would require a lot more courage than they imagined. Today's feast is a powerful opportunity to hold out to us and to others the hope-filled image of God’s transforming power.
Jesus’ experience on the mountain is put at the centre of the gospel. Jesus is in dialogue with history: Moses and Elijah, in one moment, and his sleepy disciples in the next. It was here that he was given the heart, the courage, to make it possible to take the way of the Cross: to send Judas from the table of the last supper with a kiss, to look Pilate in the eye, to forgive the mindless cruelty of the soldiers and the betrayal of his own friends. The transfiguration changed the shape of his understanding; it was consciousness-raising for him. Might not suffering of the poor and oppressed in history still be an unmitigated disaster if Jesus had not had this experience? If we look at the shocking photos of famine in East Africa, the ongoing torture of prisoners in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, the human rights abuses still perpetrated at Guantánamo Bay, the devastation of cities in Iraq and Syria, and so many other places such as the Mediterranean Sea and near to home on Manus Island and Nauru we see the suffering of Christ, the Human One [Son of humanity].
Our history continues to be a holocaust of human hatred and the slaughter of innocent people. George Bernard Shaw, in Don Juan in Hell has the Devil ask,
‘Is Man any the less destroying himself for all this boasted brain of his? Have you walked up and down the earth lately? I have; and I have examined Man's wonderful inventions. And I tell you that in the arts of life man invents nothing; but in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself, and produces by chemistry and machinery all the slaughter of plague, pestilence, and famine. The peasant I tempt today eats and drinks what was eaten and drunk by the peasants of ten thousand years ago, and the house he lives in has not altered as much in a thousand centuries as the fashion of a lady's bonnet in a score of weeks. But when he goes out to slay, he carries a marvel of mechanism that lets loose at the touch of his finger all the hidden molecular energies, and leaves the javelin, the arrow, the blowpipe of his fathers far behind. In the arts of peace, Man is a bungler. . . there is nothing in Man's industrial machinery but his greed and sloth: his heart is in his weapons. This marvellous force of Life of which you boast is a form of Death: Man measures his strength by his destructiveness. . . Man, the inventor of the stake, the gallows, the electric chair, of sword and gun and poison gas. . . above all, of patriotism, and all the other isms which even those who are clever enough to be humanely disposed are persuaded to become the most destructive of all destroyers.’
For decades we have lived with the reality that we have the capacity to destroy every life form God so lovingly created. This is an extreme, dramatic example of how we on earth can treat one another, how fearful we can become when we are threatened, how easily we can 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 Gospel reminds us of a deeper reality - that God insists always on having the last word. The dazzling, blinding white light cast on the mountain declares that God insists on transfiguring hell into heaven. God will not let the hell of Hiroshima be the last word. God will not let the selfishness and inhumanity of nuclear annihilation win out. The power of God can transfigure the events of August 6, 1945 into a level of restraint in the way nations settle differences. The power of humanity to destroy and dehumanise one another is ever before us but we do things differently – we can negotiate with North Korea, we can end the state of war that has existed for decades, we can listen to their concerns of fear and the memory of extreme violence during the Korean War and after.
On the mountain top and at the bottom of the mountain [our world] God’s voice can be heard: Listen to Jesus! We are to listen to him to understand what true religion is about. It is the religion at the bottom of the mountain and which engages with our world – not the ‘shrine’ religion that Peter wants to establish [three tents]. This suggests the ghetto, remaining in the boat, keeping away from the world and from people in their need. This message is that religion is to be about the active engagement of the people of God with the gospel of liberation. It is not about settling down to build shelters, practice cosy fellowship, building maintenance organisations, etc.
Jesus does not point away from the world. He is the incarnation of God, the embodiment of God's love. The one who is transfigured will soon be disfigured and points to the disfigured in the world. The brokenness of humanity, the parts we all experience and the parts we are responsible for, must be taken into the divine life. But we cannot stay on the mountaintop. Jesus draws us into the human drama of brokenness and healing. We look back to the transfiguration and look ahead at our world. We are on a journey - a relationship with God and each other. God lives within us and calls to us ‘You are a child of God. You too are God's beloved.’ It is inclusive of all.
Peter wants to build a permanent dwelling place for each right there on the mountaintop, so that this wonderful moment might be captured and preserved. In this context they hear: ‘This is my Son, the beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ We cannot let our religion stay at mountain top level. The human project – peace with justice, liberation for all people – cannot remain in hibernation on the mountain, or settle down into irrelevancy, or settle with ‘personal’ religion where it is just me and Jesus and no one else.
In today’s terms we must see Jesus on the mountain not only with Moses and Elijah, but also Muhammad, Gautama [Buddha] if we are to have a future of peace. We must be willing to make space where the ‘mountain’ of God is not a shrine for the past but a meeting place to envision a future of peace and justice on our planet. The gospel says that this cannot occur unless we listen: listen to Jesus, and listen to each other – especially ‘the other’.
People of faith know that lying beside the power to destroy is the power of God -- a force that will rise in human consciousness, intersecting our human ways, and unleashing the dazzling white power of love that can transfigure us.
As we remember August 6, 1945, the image of the mushroom-shaped cloud comes to consciousness. But Christians who remember that August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration know, too, that another cloud overshadows the mushroom-shaped one. It is the cloud of the mountain from which the voice of God reminds us that Jesus is God’s chosen one to whom we must listen.