Listen to Him

transfig-ext
Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor

This is my beloved Son, listen to Him. (Matthew 17:5)

So spoke the Lord of heaven, the Ancient One who sits upon a throne of divine fire. He judges all things—all of history and every soul. And He said to Peter, James, and John, about Jesus: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” He says to us: Listen to Jesus.

[Click for spanish.]

Listen to His parables of the coming of the Kingdom of heaven and His call to repentance. Listen to the Sermon on the Mount. Listen to His discourse to Nicodemus about being born from above, His Bread-of-Life discourse, His teachings about Abraham’s freedom, the sabbath rest, the faith of the little one, and the resurrection of the dead. Listen to Him describe the Good Shepherd. Listen to His Last-Supper discourses and His descriptions of the final judgment. Listen to His prayers: the Our Father and His priestly prayer in John 17. Listen to His commissionings: His instructions to St. Peter, and to all His apostles. Listen to His promises: the Beatitudes, His promise to send the Holy Spirit, His promise of peace—peace which the world cannot give. Listen to the Word made flesh.

St. Peter put it like this:

We did not follow cleverly disguised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses to His majesty.

We do not deal in myths. We do not deal in merely human doctrines. We listen to the Lord Jesus.

What do we need? We need the four holy gospels and the other writings of the apostles. In other words, we need the New Testament. And since the New Testament constantly refers to the Old Testament, we need the whole Bible. We need the seven sacraments Christ gave us: His Body and Blood, the waters of His baptism, the priesthood of the New Covenant He established. We need each other, the great family of the Church, governed by St. Peter’s successor in office and the bishops in communion with him.

Gerard David TransfigurationEquipped with all this, we can hear Christ. We can hear the beloved Son of the eternal Father. We can hear Him speaking. The words to which God Almighty commands us to listen—we can hear them and take them to heart, here in the bosom of the Church.

Do not be anxious or afraid. Let the children come unto Me. Love your enemies. Pray that you might persevere through temptation. Baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Give your cloak and tunic to the one who asks, and settle with your opponent before the judge throws you both in prison. Beg for mercy before you place your gift on the altar. Fear the one who can send you to fiery Gehenna, where the worm never dies. Have faith in God; have faith in Me; in My Father’s house there are many dwelling places. Let your light shine, so that men might give glory to My heavenly Father. Do good; avoid evil. Ask the Father to send the Spirit of truth.

Listening to Jesus, in the heart of the Church, turns life into something worth doing. The words of Christ turn life into the adventure it was meant to be. The adventure of holiness and eternal salvation.

Why are we here? To serve God and make our way to heaven. What must we do? Give. Love. Sacrifice. Give God the glory and praise. Make peace with your neighbor.

The Transfiguration is real. And it’s not just Jesus on Mount Tabor. Yes, at that moment, the divine light transfigured His appearance, and the apostles saw His glory. But the transfiguration also involves us. When we listen to Christ in the heart of the Church, we change.

We no longer skate on the surface of things. We stop thinking everything revolves around me, me, me. Our perception deepens, and Access Hollywood becomes intolerably boring. Our souls begin to grow like redwoods.

We stop carping and gossiping and tearing people down, because now we see the good in others. We talk less and listen more. When someone suffers, we care. And when we suffer, we offer it to God for the salvation of souls.

The words of Christ hang in the air, in the Church, like shimmering tapestries that beautify the inside of our minds. But, of course, Christ spoke most eloquently without any words at all, when He serenely submitted Himself to His bitter Passion and stretched-out His arms on the cross. All the spoken words of Christ lead to the silent word of the crucifix.

God gives us wisdom. He wills to teach us, so that we can share in the full clarity of His mind. And He teaches us His wisdom one way, as He declared on Mount Tabor: Almighty God speaks to us through His beloved Son, Christ crucified.

When we hear that silent word, and take it in, in the heart of the Church, then our transfiguration truly begins.

First and Second Regeneration

full_moon_2
Purim moon tonight. One more cycle to the holy Pasch.

On two occasions during Lord Jesus’ earthly life, the Father spoke out from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son!” At Christ’s Baptism. And at His Transfiguration.

Holy Baptism. One of the seven… sacraments. The sacrament of regeneration. God generated us in the first place, in the Garden of Eden. When Satan tempted us, we fell, and we became the sinful, mortal human race that we are. Then God sent His beloved Son to re-generate us.

We enter into the re-generation process through Holy Baptism. When we get baptized into Christ, everything starts fresh–human purity restored, an open-ended friendship with God begins.

Gerard David TransfigurationYou know that Lent exists primarily as the final period of preparation for adults who will be baptized during the night before Easter. Lent primarily means the final stage of study and purification for non-Christians about to become Christians. The ancient People of God passed dry-shod through the Red Sea and marched on, toward the Promised Land; Lent exists primarily for us to integrate the stranger and the sojourner among us into our nation, the pilgrim Church.

Lent also exists to remind us already-baptized Christians about what happened to us at the font. God regenerated us there, to live as His friends, as the children of His household. We need to reach into the depths of our souls to rediscover the always-new, always-fresh presence of Christ’s truth and life. When we were baptized into Him, Jesus claimed us as His forever.

We already-baptized people, as we reach into these lovely interior depths during Lent, usually find that we need to be re-cleansed by the baptismal water. And that’s as easy as… going to confession! One ancient name for the sacrament of Confession is… second Baptism.

But, speaking of second things—what about the second time the Father declared, “This is my beloved Son!” The gospel we read at Holy Mass every second Sunday of Lent. When the Lord’s body shone with brilliant divine light, transfigured. At that moment, the human regeneration accomplished by Christ, usually invisible to our eyes, was revealed.

St. Thomas Aquinas says that Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan River was the sacrament of our first regeneration. And Christ’s Transfiguration is the sacrament of our second regeneration. Our bodily resurrection. When Christ comes again, in the glory He revealed at the Transfiguration, sin and Satan and death will no longer have any power over us. According to God’s own design, we will shine then like the stars in the sky.

El Salvador

El Colocho

Very soon we will have the pleasure of welcoming Father José Alberto Moran Arce as our second parochial vicar at St. Andrew’s/St. Gerard’s in Roanoke.

He will arrive after the national feasts of San Salvador, known as the fiestas agostinas.  They begin tomorrow morning, with a cup of atol shuco.  And they conclude on the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Savior (next Saturday, August 6).

Here’s some footage from last year’s festivities in San Salvador.

And from 2013:

The Desperate Son

christ-fasting

[also available in Spanish]

“This is my chosen Son.”  –Thus spake the Almighty, about our beloved carpenter of Nazareth, the most-famous Jew of all time.

A month and a half ago, we discussed the mystery of all the events in Christ’s life.

We take two things as givens—two facts, which we cannot comprehend, but which we nonetheless believe with absolute certainty.  1.  God became man, Jesus.  2.  The one true God is three divine Persons:  Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Two dogmas:  Inc… and Tri…  The Scriptures drip with these two dogmas like a piece of French toast, ready to go on the griddle, drips with egg.  We hold the dogmas of Trinity and Incarnation as the foundation of everything we know.

tabor
Your servant on Mt. Tabor (’08)

‘People, here is my beloved Son.’  This statement sounded in the heavens, like thunder, perhaps.  Or like a mighty gust of wind.  I have stood on Mt. Tabor a couple times.  The wind can blow there with a vengeance.

God generally stays way above the level of human chat.  But, in this decisive moment of the Transfiguration, He spoke.  In thunder, or wind, or both, or in some other way.  He made Himself understood by human ears and little human minds.  ‘This is my Son, in Whom I take my delight.’

God’s eternal, divine delight—delight which endures like the most-ancient mountainsides, but which laughs with no less jollity because of that.  The eternal Father rests in an eternal state of thoroughly animated, sober inebriation—everlasting jolly contemplation of His chosen Son.  Nothing can disturb the peace; nothing can lessen the excitement of God the Father, as He gazes with love at God the Son, Jesus, the sandal-wearing Galilean.

A door open on eternity, the Father loving the Son.  And who are we?  Who are we to try to peer through that door?  Let’s remember one thing from last Sunday.  Then we can try to resolve the question.

Last Sunday we read:  “Jesus ate nothing for forty days, and He was hungry.”

Now, we can give up Snickers Bars for Lent, or drinking wine, or playing video games—it’s all good.  The Lord rewards every little sacrifice we make for Him.  But, if we really want to keep Holy Lent, we have to do something other than just a nifty little appropriate penance.  We have to contemplate those words, long and hard.  “He was hungry.”

Recently I had the privilege of encountering someone who had just had sudden heavy-duty brain surgery.  He could not talk.  He could not hold his head up.  He vomited everything they tried to get down his gullet.  He could not use his hands.  His head hurt as if there were no other reality on the face of the earth.

Forty days of fasting had gotten Christ to a physical state like that.

Continue reading “The Desperate Son”

Lamp in a Dark Place

Attend to the prophetic message as to a lamp shining in a dark place. 2 Peter 1:19

‘Prophetic.’ To prophesy means announcing something that would otherwise remain unknown. A prophecy gives us other-worldly knowledge.

Transfiguration-raphaelThe prophetic message, to which we must attend: Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. A light shines within Him–the unique, undying light, from which all creation has come.

This lamp–the light of Jesus Christ’s otherworldly divinity–His immeasurable mystery–this lamp shines in a dark place.

Seems like this question comes up over and over and over again. Fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II–let’s tackle it again. Is this world a dark place?

Today we pray especially for the Christians of Iraq, who certainly suffer in a painful kind of darkness, the darkness of having irrational enemies with loaded guns pointed at you and your children. And we pray for their neighbors, other religious minorities in the Middle East, suffering alongside our brother Christians. As they mourn their countless dead, they would likely say, ‘Yes, this is a dark world.’

But: When we prophetically declare to the dark world, ‘Jesus is Lord!’ we simultaneously say, “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.”

God does not love evil. God does not love darkness. God loves shimmering sunsets and a cup of good wine. He came to live in the beautiful world He made. He confounded the Pharisees with the way He took delight in His friends, and music, and a pleasant evening.

Let’s focus on this concept: Redemption. God came to redeem, not to destroy. Redemption implies two things:

1. This world enslaves. The evils of this world bind and fetter with base selfishness. We cannot even see the way to escape, much less have the strength to follow it. On any given day, any given web-search, the world looks hopeless.

But redemption also implies:

2. Freedom does await. The true, vivid color of the world lies hidden in shadows. But it’s there. It can come out. I’m not gay, I just love rainbows.

The Feast of the Transfiguration, the feast of hope. God loves tomorrow; He does not hate it. He will shine even more light tomorrow, until the undying dawn of the everlasting day.

Christ’s Exodus, Stations, Marmion

Stations of the Cross

They spoke of His exodus, which He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. (Luke 9:31)

The exodus of Christ. Yes: the same word as the title of the second book of the Holy Bible. The ancient Israelites languished as slaves in Egypt, away from their Promised Land, away from the sacred domain that God had given to Abraham their forefather. But then Moses led the Exodus: The Israelites escaped their bondage. They passed over the Red Sea. They made their way to their true home.

transfigurationAll of that happened by way of foreshadowing. It all symbolized the great exodus yet to come. God Himself would come to this Egypt and share with us sons and daughters of Adam the slavery of death. God Himself would walk in this foreign land–Justice and Truth Himself on an earth full of injustice and lies.

Why did He do it? He came to lead an exodus.

The Lord Jesus ascended Mt. Tabor and allowed His divine glory to shine through, and Moses and Elijah came to Him to talk—all for one reason: Apparently cruel, confusing, heartbreaking events would soon unfold in Jerusalem. The Lord wanted to show His chosen Apostles the hidden meaning of His Passion and crucifixion.

Yes, it will look like a defeat. Yes, it will appear to be an unmitigated disaster. But do not mistake it. It will be the beginning of a mighty and glorious exodus. God will in fact win a triumph in Jerusalem—a triumph so stupendous that it will make Moses parting the Red Sea look like a cheesy half-time show by comparison.

Now, pretty soon we will have a new pope. One thing a pope does is to declare saints. Pope John Paul II declared a great monk-priest named Columba Marmion to be a saint.

Dom Columba Marmion
Dom Columba Marmion
Blessed Columba Marmion lived a life of enormous holiness; he was holy in many different ways. Let’s focus on one: Dom Columba made the Stations of the Cross every day. In other words, he made them every Friday of Lent. Plus, he made them every other Friday of the year, since the Church keeps every Friday as a kind of little weekly Lent, year-round. Plus, Blessed Columba made the Stations every other day, also: Monday-Thursday, and Saturdays and Sundays, too.

Now, maybe you’re saying to yourself: “Father is telling me that this holy man—this saintly individual—that he made the Stations of the Cross every day. But I am not altogether sure what ‘making the Stations of the Cross’ means. What does it mean?”

Okay. Good question. Let’s start with a few words of Dom Columba’s, if I might quote them:

This contemplation of Jesus’ suffering is very fruitful…That is why, if, during a few moments, interrupting your work, laying aside your preoccupations, and closing your heart to all outward things, you accompany the God-man along the road to Calvary, with faith, humility, and love, with the true desire of imitating His virtues, be assured that your souls will receive choice graces, which will transform them little by little into the likeness of Jesus.

…It suffices to visit the fourteen stations, to stay a while at each of them and there to meditate on the Savior’s Passion…The more we enter into those dispositions that filled the Heart of Jesus as He passed along the sorrowful way—love towards His Father, charity towards men, hatred for sin, humility, obedience to the Father’s will—the more our souls will receive graces and lights.

Every parish church has the fourteen stations: Jesus condemned to death. Jesus taking up His cross. Jesus falling under the weight of the cross. Jesus meeting His mother in the street on the way Calvary. St. Simon helping Jesus to carry the cross. St. Veronica wiping the Holy Face. The Lord falling under the weight of the cross again. Jesus condoling with the wailing women in the street. Jesus falling a third time as He begins to climb Calvary Hill. The centurions roughly stripping Him of His tunic. The centurions nailing Him to the cross. They plant the cross in the earth, and, after three hours of agony, God dies. They take His Body down and lay Him in His Mother’s arms. Then they lay Him in the tomb.

Fourteen stations. On the Fridays of Lent, most of the parishes of the world pray the Stations together. In our humble cluster, we make our way through them together at 7:00 in the evening. On Good Friday, at 3:00 p.m.

This is the exodus of the Savior of the world. We celebrate it constantly in the Mass. As Bl. Dom Columba put it, “devotion to the sufferings of Christ in the Way of the Cross is the devotional prayer most closely linked to the Mass.”

Let’s assume we want to get to heaven. Failing to take advantage of this particular means of devotion would be like a miner failing to take advantage of a pickaxe, or a NASCAR driver failing to take advantage of a car. Sure, you can run 500 times around Daytona Speedway on foot. But why not drive? Likewise: yes, it is possible to get to heaven without praying the Stations of the Cross. But why not hop on board a train of prayer that is definitely headed in the right direction? Friday at 7:00 (check local listings).

Big East + Listening to His Enormous Demands

Final day of the Big-East men’s basketball season.

Which means that the only really important sporting event on earth will take place this week, in the Garden.

Hoyas square-off in Milwaukee this afternoon. Do I care that it’s Marquette “Senior Day?” Let them weep through it.

This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.

Saints Peter, James, and John heard these words spoken from heaven. Listen to Him. Do what He says and avoid what He prohibits. Nonetheless—even though God Himself, in no uncertain terms, told them to listen to Christ—the Apostles had a hard time obeying Him.

Is it any wonder, then, that we have a hard time bringing ourselves to obey the Son of God?

After all, it would be one thing if Christ said, “Love your friends and let your enemies go to the dogs.”

Or if He said, “Don’t worry about Judgment Day. My Father doesn’t really care how you treat other people, especially the people you don’t like.”

We might listen to Him more eagerly if He said, “Blessed are the likable, good-looking people. Blessed are those with nice cars. Blessed are you when you finally make it, and vest your retirement plan, and get nice, big, fat bank statements in the mail. Rejoice and be glad, because heaven belongs to the people with 70-inch flatscreens.”

BUT: To listen to the Son of God, Who says, “The meek will inherit the earth.”

And “The rich cannot enter the kingdom of heaven without passing through the eye of a needle.”

And “Even the pagans pray for their family and friends. You must love and pray for the people who curse you and hate you.”

To listen to this Teacher…Let’s put it this way: We do not come into the world able to do it.

Continue reading “Big East + Listening to His Enormous Demands”

Transfiguration

As no darkness can be seen by anyone surrounded by light, so no trivialities can capture the attention of anyone who has his eyes on Christ.
–St. Gregory of Nyssa

…Therefore, we do not dwell on the dismal whimper with which the Georgetown Hoyas ended a once-promising season. Maybe we can dwell on the prospect of the injury-hobbled Hokies making an NIT run.

…Every year St. Joseph gets two days, today (March 19) and May 1. On May 1, our Holy Father Pope Benedict will declare his predecessor to be among the blessed in heaven. That will be the day when we can stop praying for the happy repose of John Paul II and start praying to him…

…Here is a homily for the Second Sunday of Lent:

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. (Matthew 17:1-2)

On the second Sunday of every Lent, we read about the ascent of the Lord Jesus, Peter, James, and John up Mount Tabor. The second Sunday of Lent brings precious memories to my mind, because three years ago today, I began a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I got to see Galilee, to climb Mount Tabor, and then make my way to Jerusalem.

When the Lord and his closest apostles went up the mountain, they, too, were beginning a pilgrimage. It was the pilgrimage that faithful Jews made to Jerusalem for the Passover feast.

Continue reading “Transfiguration”

You my Glance Seeks (Psalm 27)

A deep, terrifying darkness enveloped Abraham. (Genesis 15:12)

The Lord had called Abraham to come to the Promised Land. God instituted a covenant with Abraham. He made promises to Abraham. Then the Lord enveloped Abraham in a “deep, terrifying darkness.”

Many centuries later, the Lord Himself walked the earth. He took His closest Apostles up to the top of a towering mountain. He revealed His divinity to them. Then He enveloped them in a cloud that cast a shadow over them. Peter, James, and John became frightened.

Continue reading “You my Glance Seeks (Psalm 27)”

Jet-Lagged but Eager

IMG_0573
Very attentive pilgrims

Today we went to the Basilica of the Annunciation to meditate on a few things.

We considered three points:

1. Our Lady welcomed the Archangel Gabriel here with perfect humility.
2. God became man in our Lady’s womb right here.
3. He lived most of His human life here–His hidden life, the life He has shared with every human being.

Continue reading “Jet-Lagged but Eager”