Am I Your “Chosen One” too? ©
Thoughts on the 2nd Sunday in Lent, March 17, 2019
Transfiguration of Jesus & Patrons of Ireland – Patrick, Brigid, Columba
by Rev. Jim Ryan, firstname.lastname@example.org
“This is my own, my Chosen One.”
We’re heading into the time of big events – not only Holy Week, Triduum, and Easter – but also along the Lenten way, as it were. This week we have Transfiguration. In 2 weeks the Prodigal Son stops for a visit. And the Sunday after that brings the option to include the Raising of Lazarus as the Gospel. Finally, starts Holy Week – Triduum – Easter. These events, of course, are so familiar. They likely form the structure of our commitment in faith, the stories and events without which Christianity doesn’t exist.
With this in mind and with all the assurance that these events provide, I still find myself asking, “Are these events the experiences that convince me that I am One with Christ?” Sure, Jesus died – untimely though it was – and so will I. But what convinces me that just as Jesus rose so will I?
Was it this Transfiguration event? Did it convince the disciples that they, too, are “Beloved Ones”, that where Jesus goes they follow? Maybe, but these days I’m more convinced that it’s the intimate experience that convinces. And here’s what makes me think this way.
My father was a letter writer. In his heyday he was Master of the 4pg. letter. He was so intent on filling that last page that, if he ran out of things to say at mid-p.4 then his signoff line would expand from a usual 1 inch to over 3 inches and larger as needed. I believe he came to this lifelong practice of writing letters to his far flung family from his own personal history.
Dad was a member of the Redemptorist Community for 6 ½ years. Back when the rules prevented your family from just showing up to visit (only certain Sundays were designated Family Visiting Days) Superiors of the Orders directed the young religious to write letters. My guess is they probably told them that 4 pages was just the right length. In any case, my father became a letter writer in search of contents for his 4pg. missives.
He loved setting up his card table in what we called the upstairs back bedroom – really a converted sun porch – on Sunday afternoons so that he could expound on Mom’s Sunday dinner, each item and each course. Whether it was me 250 miles away in the Monastery, or my brothers around the world in various branches of the Service, or his sister in Florida, or any one of us who happened to be away from home at the time, Dad kept us informed. He did so because he knew from personal experience that when you are away from home it’s the details that you want to hear about.
The thing about it is, people saved Dad’s letters. It wasn’t a family plan. We discovered toward the end of his life that we did this saving unplanned and on our own. My Uncle Bill, Dad’s brother, told me that he saved Dad’s letters too. As he approached his own final days he offered to send those letters to me, and I said I’d love to see them.
Today’s Order of Service includes the signoff from Dad’s final letter to Bill, dated 4/26/10. He died 5 months later. Here is that signoff:
When Mom was alive Dad signed the letters, “Very Best – Prayers – Sincerely, Mom & Dad” or “Peg & Harry” with the tactically placed X’s and O’s for hugs and kisses. After Mom passed he adopted the practice of just drawing a line where Mom’s name used to be, you know, gone but certainly never forgotten.
Here’s what I want to focus on. Not for want of something to say, and certainly not for wanting to share his life, his children, his experiences was my father stopped. It’s just that, at age 95, as he wrote to Bill, “my fingers refuse to barely move.”
So, I ask, is the finality of physicality the end? I refuse to believe that spirit and life are dictated to by a body that no longer functions. I believe, and I’m guessing that you believe also, that life, once begun, does not end. Further, I didn’t start this life so I conclude it is a gift. And, if a gift there must be a giver. And if a giver exists then we must share the same gift.
My father’s spirit of always saying more and sharing more is the basis of my Transfiguration experience today. Along with the big events which lie ahead it’s the intimate sharing that allows us to say with the disciples, “Where you go, I follow. Your spirit is my spirit.”
The deeper we share in this experience of the gift of being One in God the more sense do the events make that are on the horizon of the next few weeks. Simone Weil, French Philosopher and Resistance Fighter, once wrote, “If we go down into ourselves, we find that we possess exactly what we desire.” The joke is on us since this is not a possession to package and hide away. This possession, being life, is always sharing.
On this day of Celtic celebration I would be remiss not to share what John O’Donohue writes about experience in his book, “Beauty: Invisible Embrace.” He says, “For the Celtic Imagination experience is participation in something more ultimate than one’s needs, projection or ego: …(this) sacred arena in which the individual enters into contact with the eternal.” He sums up by saying that experience is an event of revelation; the place where gifts arrive from the divine.
So, whether Transfiguration is the big event or the intimate experience it reveals to us why Jesus prays, and we with him, that we all be One in God.
A Prayer with the nod to Seamus Heaney’s “Postscript”
Today, or some day, Ruler of High Heaven, may we rest, or maybe take a drive to the “coast of Clare along the flaggy shore.”
The sights we’ll see will transfigure us in your creation’s gifts of life and of love.
We will be neither here nor there, since it’s not events that shake us,
but pure vision of you in us and us in you..
This trip we are on to Easter joy is driven
by the wind and the light
of your example and our witness
that love and peace are the fruit
of service and justice.
Praise to the Guide of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the One. Amen!
Postscript by Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)
And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.