Friday, February 22, 2008


In contemplating the transfiguration of Jesus, we might well ask what it means for us. Dare we ask for or expect a similar experience? May we be transfigured like Jesus?

Well, this side of resurrected life, the obvious answer is - No.  But if not transfigured, we might be transformed. In fact, by all scriptural accounts, those who come to faith in Jesus must be transformed, or converted. Metamorphosis The Greek word is μετανοια, or metanoia, etymologically related to μεταμορφοω, or metamorphoo. Metamorphosis is, of course, the radical transformation that occurs when a caterpillar forms a chrysalis and then emerges later as a butterfly. The change is striking, to say the least.

In Romans 12:2, Paul commands us "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed...", and then in 2 Cor.5:17 he says "if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come." This obviously means a radical and total change, not just a little reforming job.

The question is: is this transformation something we do, or a miracle of grace? It is, of course, the latter, since none of us has the power to change his own nature. Yet, it is presented as a command as well. If we claim to belong to Jesus, we must avail ourselves of that grace, do what we can to submit to the changes the Holy Spirit wants to accomplish in us. That's a big part of what Lent is to be about.

OK - anybody out there have some hints to help me get started on my cocoon?

Friday, February 15, 2008


Transfiguration We are accustomed to hear the account of Christ's transfiguration without the surrounding context. The full story can be found in Mt.16:21-17:21, Mk.8:31-9:29, and Lk.9:22-43, with all three synoptic Gospels giving the same contextual details:

Jesus tells his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem to die and then to rise again. Then he tells them that every disciple of his must also deny himself, take up his cross and lose his life. Then he says that some of them would not die until the Kingdom of God had come. Then he takes Peter, James, and John with him up Mount Tabor, and appears in great glory with Moses and Elijah. The three disciples are dazzled, Peter wants to erect booths (tents? tabernacles?) for the three glorious figures, a cloud overshadows them, and they hear God say "This is my beloved Son; listen to him.". After that, Jesus alone is to be seen, back to his normal state. On the way back down, Jesus orders the three disciples not to talk about this event until he has died and risen. Once down from the mountain, Jesus casts out a demon which the other disciples had tried to expel but couldn't.

It seems significant that the surrounding details are consistent in all three accounts. It would seem that the transfiguration, that foretaste of resurrected and heavenly glory, is inextricably tied to self-denial and to the cross. This is true not only for Jesus, but for us as well. The flip side is that, in the midst of our crosses and of our desert times, we can take heart and derive strength from the promise of victorious resurrection life. The cross and the resurrection are two sides of a single redemption coin. Our battle against sin and against Satan will be futile outside of this reality.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Knowing good and evil

When Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, just what did that mean? At face value, it seems to simply say that Man became a moral being, capable of knowing right from wrong, and capable of freely choosing either. We cannot be amoral like the animals; we can only be moral or immoral.

No less than John Paul II has suggested a deeper meaning as well. Namely, that the original sin of Man involved deciding what is good and what is evil, in direct rebellion of God's authority. Note the serpent's words: "You will be like God, knowing good and evil". Rather than agree with God's judgment of sin, we want to make up our own rules.

Sound familiar? Of course it does - we hear this all the time, even perhaps from our pulpits. "Each person must find his or her own truth" or: "Only you can decide what is right and wrong for you" or: "Sin is whatever you feel it to be" If this relativism is questioned, the inevitable out-of-context comeback is "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

Whether you call it a serpent's hiss, or "Values clarification", it's still a deception. Repentance starts with agreeing with God, and recognizing that what He says is good is good, and what He says is evil is evil.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Repentance, a sweet deal

Here it is, Ash Wednesday, and the Church is calling me to repent of my sins again. What a bummer! I mean, I thought I'd done that repentance thing already - what's the deal, anyway? . . . Well - - OK - I've been sinning again, that's the deal. Truth is, I never really stopped. Maybe slowed down a couple times, that's all.

Speaking of deals, repentance is a pretty sweet offer, when you think of it. Sin, even the major ones, need not keep us from God nor from eternal life. Just agree with God that sin is evil, ask forgiveness, and purpose to do better, with God's grace. That's repentance.

Jesus died so we could have such a deal. That is to say, the cross is the remedy for sin. Taking on our sins was Jesus' part; belief and repentance is our part of the deal. But there is no remedy for making excuses, for rationalizing and justifying our sinful ways. Just repent - agree with God that sin is wrong. To refuse to do so is to refuse the sweet deal, and to remain trapped in the deadly pit our sins have dug us into.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Faithful, not successful

Inadvertantly, the last two posts have a common thread: the true measure of our actions is whether or not they are the right actions to take, not how well they turn out.

Vote for the best candidate, whether deemed electable or not; you can't answer for other voters.

Act with true charity towards the other person, whether appreciated or not; you can't answer for his response.

Mother Teresa understood this principle, and could say without hesitation that we are called to be faithful, not successful. And she was faithful, even when all seemed dark.