Monday, March 5, 2012

God Who Saves the Weak--Or a Weak "god"? Purity Makes the Difference

There is a huge difference between the God who saves the weak and a god who is created out of human weakness.

On its face, the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus teaches us that Jesus is God.  Seeing Jesus transfigured, taking on the radiance of His Divine Nature, speaking to Moses and Elijah, Jews like Peter, James and John would understand the meaning of this.  The Law, represented by Moses, and the Prophets, represented by Elijah, testify to the truth of Jesus, the one who stands before them.  What they see is God unveiled, not hidden, but God, awe-inspiring and majestic, just as Moses witnessed on Mt. Sinai.  This is the One, as St. Paul writes, Christ Jesus, who is at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us.  This is the Beloved Son, who speaks for God and is God, the One to whom we are to listen.

There is, at the same time, in the account of the Transfiguration, a meaning that has practical significance for our spiritual journey during Lent.  It is about the discipline with which we approach it through prayer, fasting and giving alms.  It is about repentance, which only comes about when first we recognize that we have sinned.  The Beatitudes teach that the pure of heart are blessed; they shall see God.  The Jesus encountered on Mt. Horeb is the one we must make every effort to encounter ourselves.  Lent is designed to assist us in that quest as we seen to purify ourselves of all that is not of God in order to receive Him with a pure heart.  We are deceived in this world and this culture of death. As St. John’s first letter says: 1 John 2:15-17  Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides forever.  Again, recall the Beatitude, “blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” 

We are being put to the test like Abraham who was told to go sacrifice his son.  Our Lenten test is much easier, however.  Our goal is to be purified, to put to death worldly desires.  Abraham was put to the test to see if he valued the one true God above even his own son.  In passing the test, Abraham gave us an image of God the Father who sacrificed the Christ for our sake.  Abraham, thus, walked with God.  St. Paul suggests that Abraham knew Christ even though he lived centuries earlier.  Abraham’s vision was pure.  His trust in God was not marked by anything less than the goal of eternal happiness.  His example, unique in salvation history, nevertheless is an example to us to be purified lest we not gain an eternal inheritance in the land of the living.

Let us ask ourselves, why do we not see this Lord in his glory?  Why is it that we refuse to lay aside everything in order that we might walk constantly with God and see his glory?

For the most part, God is not forcing the issue with us as he did with Abraham.  But this does not mean that we are left without opportunities to step out in faith.  We have Lent to voluntarily remove from between the Lord and each one of us the desires that cloud the vision of our minds and hearts and prevent us from ascending the mountain, that prevent us from seeing Jesus Christ as do the pure of heart.

If we are honest with ourselves we would have to admit that, on account of our desire for pleasure, our rebelliousness, our stubbornness, our pride, our laziness, or our greed, that we find the price of seeing God too great, much like the Israelites who fearfully refused to ascend the mountain with Moses in his day.

The Church today is in turmoil.  Publicly, Catholics openly deny the truths of the faith.  Where is the one who accepts in the heart that the Church speaks for God? Often, matters related to purity separate them from the Church.  Many Church leaders, those charged before God to protect the integrity of the faith, do nothing about politicians who are teaching falsehood and even claiming a greater authority than the bishops, or for that matter, than Christ himself. Many teachers of the faith do nothing about the errors that are thrust upon us, choosing instead to run while the wolf devours the sheep.  Catholics are as likely as anyone to fall into the errors condemned in St. Paul’s teaching regarding sexual purity and holiness in marriage.  Out of wedlock births now exceed 40 percent, and in some places, they constitute the majority of births.

If we are to see God, the Beatitudes say we must be pure.  Let me begin with the priests.  Priests must be pure in heart and body--and I speak of myself first--if we are to testify to the truth.  Young men and women must learn again the importance of purity of heart and of body.  They must learn to respect their bodies as God’s temples if they are not to lose their souls on account of the evils the unruly desires unleash.  The culture of death is against them. Who will rise up to protect them? Husbands and wives need to begin again to respect the proper role of purity and chastity in their marriage, be open to life, not contracepting, but trusting in God’s plan.  If God gives Abraham a son, cannot he not also provide for him?  Spouses can learn the sacred signs of fertility and space births scientifically and morally according to the way God made the body.  Learn to love and respect each other as God intended and the true Christ, radiant and powerful, will be part of marriage again.  You do not have to go to Mt. Horeb to see Jesus transfigured.  You can see him everyday in your homes if you, like Abraham, are willing to believe that God is all-powerful and put him first instead of some anemic god created out of human weakness.  There is a huge difference between the majestic God who comes to save the weak and a weak god created out of human frailty.

1 comment:

Dana Turpin said...

"Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." It resounds in my soul. Thank you Fr. Richard for helping us stay focused on the Lord:)