Gn 22. 1-2,9a,10-13,15-18; Ps 116; Rm 8. 31b-34; Mk 9. 2-10
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Clearer Than Usual
We have entered Lent. Each of us has been experimenting with a practice to help us renew our baptisms and transform our lives in and with our risen Messiah Jesus. Some of us may have found one practice, which draws us closer to Jesus and takes us deeper into his paschal mystery. Others of us may still be trying to find one practice, which draws us closer to Jesus and takes us deeper into his paschal mystery.
Lent is not about doing many things. Lent is about one thing: drawing closer to Jesus by entering into his paschal mystery. No lenten practice or any other practice to exercise our spirit is an end in itself. It is a means not the goal. The goal is Jesus and his paschal mystery and our deeper union with him. Our lenten practice ought to guide us closer to Jesus not concentrate us on any discipline. For example, if I’ve chosen to fast one day a week this Lent, then the effects on me of having a single, moderate main meal ought to make me more attentive to Jesus present in my life and inviting me to live differently.
If having a single, moderate main meal consumes me with hunger pains and prevents me from considering Jesus’ suffering, especially in the poor, the homeless the malnourished and those we put on the margin of society, then I ought to find another lenten discipline. Lent’s power causes us to feel differently about Jesus: more close; more fascinated; more in tune with his way; more in need of Jesus’ healing love; more aware of his suffering and dying in too many of the world’s little ones; and more confident in his new life given us in baptism, which the eucharist sustains and nourishes each time we celebrate it.
The difference goes beyond feelings to involve how we look at the world, how we appreciate others and God. It reshapes and transforms us. God isn’t limited to Lent to reshape us and transform us. We give ourselves more to God and others during Lent. Indeed, religions the world over long have been aware the divine transforms the human. Feeling different accompanies altered states of consciousness: awareness more intense and clearer than usual.
An anthropologist studied this and wondered if “altered states of consciousness, for the most part in traditional societies and in a sacred context, are...a rare and exotic phenomenon of interest only to specialists [or] a major aspect of human behavior that has significant impact on the functioning of human societies.” Her question leads us to ask about ourselves: do personal praying and communal worship affect me, or are they a waste of time? Do they offer me glimpses of God, or do I just imagine them? The anthropologist reassures us.
After combing through evidence from almost 500 societies “in all parts of the world...[she found] 90% are reported to have one or more institutionalized, culturally patterned forms of altered states of consciousness.”/1/ God gives us glimpses of who God is. Personal praying and communal worship are windows on God.
Today’s gospel scene preserved and handed to us a pivotal moment in Jesus’ life in which his disciples’ awareness was not routine: one hardly knew what to say; all three were...frightened; what they saw suddenly was not available to their sight. Nor was their more intense and clearer-than-usual awareness complete.
They saw something, but the gospel is not clear that they heard Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah, or that they heard the voice from the cloud. They would discern what their mountaintop experience offered them after Jesus rose from the dead; but their mountaintop experience filled them with awe although its meaning lay hidden from them.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, compose yourself and step out of your world into the life and light of the Trinity. Force nothing; each time you exhale step from your world, and each time you inhale enter their life. Ask Peter, James, and John to help you be both open and attentive to what Jesus desires to offer you in those 15 minutes. Rest in what Jesus offers you: peace; tears; refreshment; feeling safe with him; invited to live both his dying and rising. Resolve to allow Jesus’ gift to affect your daily living. Close your time by saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. Each time we echo Jesus’ personal prayer, we converse with God and, God transforms us along with Jesus to be more confident in what is not routine and much more real than we imagine.
Erika Bourguignon, Religion, Altered States of Consciousness, and Social Change. Columbus, OH: Ohio University Press, 1983, p. 9.
Wiki-image of Living Shadow is used according to the GFDL. Wiki-image of the Transfiguration is in the public domain.