Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sunday word

Transfiguration of the Lord B (06Aug2006) Dn7.9-10,13-14; Ps 97; 2Pt1.16-19; Mk9.2-10
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Allowing God a Turn

Art often depicts the scene of the Transfiguration as blinding the apostles with the light of divine glory. Without neglecting this and its accompanying awe Church Tradition has shaped the Transfiguration as an invitation to ponder God-become-flesh, who died and rose for us; and to unite ourselves with Christ suffering in all people who suffer as one pathway to sharing Christ’s glory. That’s why each Second Sunday of Lent offers this gospel scene. The annual feast of the Transfiguration also shapes it as a scene of prayer and as a call to prayer.

To pray connects us with the Trinity: to God through Jesus in their Spirit, as the ancient closing of prayer put it. To pray maintains our connection, deepening it and strengthening it. To pray shares in the divine glory and graciousness which Jesus continually reveals even now. To pray admits that clouds of mystery surround our experience of God through Jesus in their Spirit. The Transfiguration vision assumes as true that the more real, heavenly world is hidden from human perception unless God takes the initiative to identify its messengers. To pray allows our Triune God to communicate with us in an ongoing way.

Prayer has been called conversation with God. By definition conversation has two ingredients: one’s turn to speak; and, one’s turn to listen, quietly attending to what a conversation partner offers. A true incident helps us appreciate conversing with God.

A Russian Orthodox woman of many years and deep piety spoke to her priest after liturgy one day. She said, ‘Father, I have always prayed and do pray. I tell God everything. I ask God to help me and others. But in all my years I feel God does not hear me.’

Her priest looked tenderly at her before asking, ‘Do you ever listen and give God a chance to reply?’ Her face brightened. ‘Why no!’ she answered. ‘Pray as usual,’ said the priest, ‘and when you knit, quiet yourself and allow God to communicate to you.’ She soon reported his advice changed everything for her.*

Do we allow Christ to speak? Our opening prayer admitted to God that are vocations are to listen to the voice of Christ Jesus.** We listen to his voice with more than our ears.

The church reminds us: “Christ...speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in Church. He is present...when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: Where two or three are gathered together for my sake, I am there in the midst of them (Mt 18.20)."** St. Augustine said that one is an empty proclaimer of God’s word, “who does not listen to it inwardly.”*** His student, St. Ambrose, said, “we speak to [God] when we pray, we hear him when we read the divine sayings,”**** for even alone Jesus promised us, I will never leave your orphaned.

Christ the Speaker: that image balances our understanding of prayer as conversation with God. In the second reading St. Peter exhorted us to be attentive; Daniel, we heard, watched, alert to the vision given him. And on the mountain St. Peter: well, he was so much like us. He seemed immune to the awe and prophetic confirmation at Jesus’ transfiguration. The divine voice reminded him and us: Jesus is my beloved son. Listen to him. I hear the tone of the divine voice both pleading and commanding: Peter! Be still! Hunker down and drink in this present moment, which authorizes you to speak for Jesus and for his Father.

Are you ready for a challenge this week? I hope you are. This week pause each day for five minutes and calm yourself, quiet yourself. In your calm quiet be aware of God gazing on you with love. ...That’s all. ... Start with two minutes if you must and work up to five, to 10 minutes over the next seven days

If you knit, knit in quiet, both outer and inner quiet. If you walk, walk calmly and notice what you see as if for the first time. If you sip a cup of coffee, don’t make any list or think of anything. If you sit, sit quietly. Admit distracrtions for what they are, and refocus yourself on God gazing lovingly on you. Trust me. It may be uncomfortable at first, hence two minutes gradually working up to five, to 10 minutes. They may become the most valuable and daily 10 minutes of your life.
* The Tablet a few years ago. I recount here from memory.

** God our Father, in the transfigured glory of Christ your Son, you strengthen our faith by confirming the witness of your prophets, and show us the splendor of your beloved sons and daughters.
As we listen to the voice of your Son, help us to become heirs to eternal life with him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. [Sacramentary, Feast of the Transfiguration]

*** Constitution on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, #7.

****Sermon 179, quoted in #25 above.

*****On the Duties of Ministers I, quoted also in #25.

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