On the Sundays of Lent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections by New Ways Ministry staff members. The liturgical readings for the Second Sunday of Lent are: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; and Luke 9:28b-36. You can access the texts of these readings by clicking here.
The Transfiguration must have been quite the spectacle. Jesus’ dazzling radiance. Dead prophets now alive. God’s presence consuming them in the cloud. There is glory made present. There is suffering foretold. In my imaginings, there are smoke machines and pyrotechnics and it is pretty similar to Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy Awards performance.
And what about the disciples in this mainstage production of God’s power and glory? Peter, John, and James wake to it and respond, like disciples do, kind of poorly. Peter’s first instinct is to build tents. He joins John and James later in just being silent.
But who among us, myself included, can say we would respond differently?
For instance, I have come to experience that identifying myself as someone in ministry, particularly LGBT work, means people frequently share much about their lives with me. Airplanes, bars, parking garages, and the doctor’s office are a few places where conversations dove deep, often with complete strangers. And like the disciples, I often stand suddenly woken up in that space made holy by another’s profound sharing with me, unprepared to respond, and stunned because I had been half asleep. My first response, like Peter, is to want to do something. Anything.
This experience is not unique to ministry. It is a human one. It is as if suddenly, while we are going about our daily lives, God shows up in dazzling radiance–as when we encounter a person anew, or crashing waves, or someone sharing their pronouns with us, or the Eucharist. It is a mountaintop experience when someone invites us into their glory, fully revealed, as when a loved one comes out to us. It is sacred when someone invites us into their suffering, fully felt, as when we grieve the loss of a loved one with family and friends. The Transfiguration with its smoke machines and resurrected prophets, pyrotechnics, and divine Clouds rolls in and stuns us.
And, if we are being honest, we do not always welcome these disruptive moments. Maybe we are prepared and have formulated a response beforehand that we then artfully employ. Maybe we are not though and, like the disciples, remain stunned and grasping once we become fully woken up to the reality before us. We are Peter, saying something even when we are unsure of what we are saying. (E.g., why does everyone bake casseroles when someone dies? We just do it.)
Contrasting being asleep and being awake, the Gospel writer Luke is really hinting at how faith lessens and intensifies in our lives. The problem with those moments I wrote about above is that we cannot always be awake, not always alive in the fullness of faith, and not always ready to respond. We are only fully human. We question and we doubt. We forget and we misprioritize. We turn away and we reject.
But we can alter how we respond when these Transfiguration moments happen in our lives. We can be more awake more often, and Lent is a perfect time for such a conversion.
A mentor of mine died last week. She often said she practiced the “ministry of an open heart.” Practicing mindfulness of reality and an openness to others will leave us more prepared. Emphasizing “being” rather than “doing” will enable us to be simply present should someone envelope us in God’s cloud with them. We won’t have to just do something out of fear or habit. Living every aspect of our lives as a prayer to God, to pray without ceasing as St. Paul exhorts, will help us stay more awake more often and thereby be better disciples of Christ.
Working for LGBTQI justice in the church is, in many ways, a ministry of waking up Catholics to the glory and the suffering of transfigured LGBTQI communities. God’s glorious diversity of sexuality and gender is increasingly prominent as more people feel safe and empowered to live openly and love fruitfully as God intended. This wonderful development is happening because of your efforts for justice and equality. The People of God are seeing diversity more and more clearly as the grace and gift it is for our church and our world.
As we journey towards the Cross, may we be more awake. And by our being awake, may we wake our institutional church to the peoples and realities not yet cherished in God’s creation!
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry