Friday, August 05, 2016

Eyewitnesses of His Majesty

As the visions during the night continued, I saw: One like a Son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, The one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.  Daniel 7:13-14

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty...Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 2 Peter 1:16, 19

While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” Luke 9:34-35

Father, please us this Feast of the Transfiguration of your Son to wake us up to the cause of peace. Help us to sense the real presence of the Spirit of the Lord upon us in the world and work daily to bring the vision of the Prince of Peace to light. Amen.

On August 6 we remember a transfiguration and a transformation. Both came with clouds, blazing light, and sound. One brought death in a scope never before seen. But the other revealed a life even greater.[i]

In our first reading, we are confronted with a Hebrew Bible version of a vision of the heavenly throne of God (the Ancient of Days), who sits in judgment over the nations.  As one like the Son of God emerges, we may be witnessing an ancient foreshadowing of the Transfiguration. The coming Kingdom of God (on earth) is represented by a human figure who sets the stage for the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth. 

The vision – or dreamscape – presented by Daniel is balanced by the eyewitness account that was experienced about 160 years later on top of a mountain.

Peter, James, and John were sleepwalking up the mountain.  “Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.

In words penned by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson five years ago, “It must be one of the extraordinary accidents of history that the first atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, which marks the annual Feast of the Transfiguration for Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox Christians around the world.”[ii]  Yet that is what transpired 71 years ago.  The cloud of the unknowing made way for the cloud of the unthinkable.  

We can only hope that the days and date chosen to drop the first bomb was just coincidental.  Yet the very project itself used much imagery of faith even naming the test site Trinity.

“Roughly 19 centuries later, and [71] years ago today, the city of Hiroshima was destroyed with elements that cannot but recall the Transfiguration: a sun-bright white light, a roar from heaven, a cloud, terror, and — most of all — a world that would never be the same.”[iii]

How often might we be overcome by sleep and miss what is happening in the world around us?  We, too, must be fully awake.  This week, the use of nuclear weapons has gotten renewed debate and focus on the campaign trail.  However, it would be good to add to our study the landmark “The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response (A Pastoral Letter on War and Peace by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops).”

Ultimately, this [1983 pastoral] letter is intended as an expression of Christian faith, affirming the confidence we have that the risen Lord remains with us precisely in the moment of crisis. It is our belief in his presence and power among us which sustain us in confronting the awesome challenge of the nuclear age. We speak from faith to provide hope for all who recognize the challenge and are working to confront it with the resources of faith and reason. To approach the nuclear age in faith is to recognize our absolute need for prayer: we urge and invite all to unceasing prayer for peace with justice for all people. In a spirit of prayerful hope, we present this message of peace.[iv]

Simply put, this pastoral letter and many other Church documents recognize that nuclear weapons are a liability in an increasingly dangerous world.  By some estimates, there are more than 20,000 nuclear weapons worldwide that would guarantee mutually assured destruction of every nation if they were unleashed on an innocent world. Today, we have the added fear that terrorist groups could acquire a nuclear weapon or “dirty bomb” and explode it in a city. 

In an Open Letter to President Obama on Nuclear Weapons, half a dozen military and church leaders acknowledge “The only purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter other nations from using nuclear weapons against us or our allies.[v]

Yet, this week, we are confronted with the reality of political candidates considering the unspeakable use of these weapons once again. Today is the 71st anniversary of dropping the bomb on Hiroshima.  Arm yourself with knowledge by reading up on the destruction caused by that bomb and the second on Nagasaki.  Realizing that today’s weapons pack immensely more power than those used on Japan, practice prayers of peace for today and the future.  Consider how you can serve the cause of the Transfigured Prince of Peace rather than the Prince of Darkness and Death.

The images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Nazi Germany, Concentration Camps, Relocation Centers, the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Paris and other French attacks, and others are very large reminders of all the many ways evil exercises its muscle in the world.

Let us pray to be in the Cloud with Peter, James, and John – the cloud of the eyewitness to peace, not the mushroom cloud of death.  And let your voice be heard petitioning all our national and world leaders to promise never to use such force ever again.

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