SHINING LIKE THE SUN
HOMILY – TRANSFIGURATION – 6 August 2017
Bombings, scandals, floods, typhoons, death and destruction! The daily diet of news tells us that’s the state of our world. All doom and gloom! How sad if that was true; if that was all we had. Life would become impossible – and it has for many, with suicide rate soaring, depression sapping energy, and violent offending casting a shadow of deep darkness over society.
The Bible opens with a beautiful poetic account of the beginning of life, giving the first words to God: Let there be light! Light was the first gift, enabling life to thrive. Life begins in darkness – a seed buried in the ground or in the mother’s womb – but only really lives when it reaches the light. Darkness and light complement each other. Both are necessary for the formation and celebration of life.
Our Christian faith centres on the person of Jesus Christ who names himself as the light of the world. The popular hymn, Christ Be Our Light, open with the line, Longing for light, we wait in darkness – capturing in a few words both the essence and the purpose of our faith. There is a longing in every person for a peaceful life, a happy and fulfilled life; there’s a longing to be accepted, to be loved, to be forgiven. The darkness that holds people, is the frustration of not being able to reach what they long for, blocking them from the light.
If you and I accept that Jesus is the light of the world, that all we humans long for can be found in him, and if we know that to be true for ourselves, then we cannot deny this awareness to others; we have to show the way to this light.
Today’s Gospel passage describes the transfiguration of Jesus: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Peter and the other witness didn’t want to leave the experience, but were instructed to keep the vision to themselves until the resurrection would make everything crystal clear. We heard Peter’s testimony in our second reading, confident enough to teach that those who follow Jesus Christ are themselves transfigured – from following the light through the dark, the dawn of understanding breaks upon us and the morning star rises in our minds. We become the light!
The American Cistercian monk, Thomas Merton, describes this beautifully. On a busy New York city street he was suddenly struck by the realisation that he and everyone around him were members of the race which God had personally joined. He wrote: “If only everybody could realise this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”
No, we can’t be told, but we start to wonder when we see it in others. I had a baptism on Friday and the little child was fascinated by the candle flame. This happens at every baptism, and not just the child is drawn to the flame. Its brightness and gentle movement holds our gaze as though we desperately want whatever it has to offer. That’s exactly how you and I as Christians should be to the world of people around us. We have more than met Jesus. We have been transfigured by his coming into our lives.
You and I are shining like the sun but we allow the doom and gloom of worry and fear to blot out the image. Don’t leave this Mass looking, as Pope Francis would say, as though you’re leaving a funeral! Go out with a smile, greet one another. Open the gifts you have received and live with gratefulness. Be proud of your faith, and let the gentleness of your life be a lamp for lighting the way through the dark, helping others discover that they too are shining like the sun!