Saturday, March 31, 2012

Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent

Homily for the
5th Sunday of Lent

March 25, 2012
John 12: 20-33
Jer 31: 31-34
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison, N.Y.

Mar. 25-31 was a hectic week in the office and with a family funeral. I totally forgot to post the homily! Sorry 'bout that.

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life” (John 12:25).

If you want to live, you have to die. If you want to be happy, you have to sacrifice yourself. If you want to be honored, you have to be a servant.* If you wonder why everyone in the world hasn’t become Christian, you might have a clue in these paradoxes, based on the teaching and the example of our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

When Jesus presents these teachings, he’s presenting his own life: “Whoever serves me must follow me” (12:26), i.e. must follow his example; must follow the same path thru life and thru death—death to self, and finally physical death—in order to arrive where Jesus is now: “Where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me” (12:26).

As Jesus carries his cross, his mother meets him along the way--the traditional 4th Station of the Via Crucis, and an apt symbol of the participation of every disciple in the passion of the Lord. (Stations of Our Lady of the Point, Pittsburgh)

Jesus didn’t have to suffer persecution from the scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees—the leaders of the Jewish people. He didn’t have to be crucified by the Romans, to “suffer under Pontius Pilate,” as our Creed professes every Sunday. He could have backed off when people objected to what he said and did. He could have, as the politicians say, “gone along in order to get along.” He could have preached what everyone else preached, and done what everyone else did. Or he could have not preached or taught at all—just stayed in Nazareth working as a carpenter like his foster-father, married, raised a family, and been a good, religious Jew.

But that wasn’t what his Father sent him into the world to do and to teach. God sent him to “make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant I made with their fathers” (Jer 31:31-32). This new covenant would not be written on stone but “upon their hearts”; it would be an internalized relationship and not one of merely external observance (31:33).

It would, moreover, be all inclusive: “All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord” (31:34). It would even include disreputable people. It would even include Gentiles. “I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners shall return to you,” says today’s psalm (51:15).

Jesus would preach God’s universal love and forgiveness. He would preach and practice what we today call the dignity and worth of every person—male or female, rich or poor, Jew or Gentile—in God’s eyes, and insist that this is the “new law” written on the heart of all God’s friends, which they should believe and practice: “Whoever serves me must follow me.”

Jesus was persecuted by those who found such a teaching threatening—to their own status and power or to their comfort level or to their sinful ways. His adherence to the truth—to conscience, we might say today—and his practice of what he believed brought him what John’s gospel calls his “hour,” i.e. his passion and death; and thru his passion and death, his glorification: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23), which means to share in God the Father’s glory, in God’s life.

Jesus compares his impending passion and death with the sowing of seeds of wheat: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (12:24). If he’d just stayed in Nazareth making tables and doorframes; if he’d just taught the same interpretations of the Torah as everyone else did—then he’d just have been a grain of wheat in a jar or on a rock. By faithfully preaching God’s truth, and dying for that, “he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Heb 5:9). His Father “saved him from death” (Heb 5:7) by raising him from the grave, and his Father empowered him to save everyone who follows him: “Where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.” “When I am lifted up from the earth”—this refers to his crucifixion—“I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32).

To follow Jesus, we likewise have to die: which means not only our eventual physical death, but, as the gospel today says, “hating our lives in this world,” being willing to die to what the world counts as important, being willing to die to our own selfishness. What does the world think is important? Money! Power! Sex! Fame! These things drive politics. They drive international relations. They drive popular entertainment. They drive our family and business relationships. And they threaten to drive us—to where? To eternal life? You know that’s not true. In the news on Thursday, we learned that Whitney Houston drowned in a bathtub, with cocaine and other substances in her body. She had it all, didn’t she? Talent, fame, money, looks. But, evidently, not happiness, not joy, what we would call a satisfied life. You could find an endless parade of similar examples of divorce, suicide, substance abuse, criminal activity—and of war, genocide, the drug trade, human trafficking, racism—demonstrating that “whoever loves his life loses it.” Whoever lives for fame and fortune, for pleasure and for power, ultimately is miserable, lonely, living already in hell.

But, promises Jesus, if we live for others, if we respect others, if we serve others; if we listen to what he teaches, if we love truth and try to follow our consciences rather than what’s popular or politically correct—then we’ll find contentment and joy: “Whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

* A little vocabulary note: in the Greek text here, the words for “serve” and “servant” are diakone and diakonos, whence our English word deacon.

Province of St. Philip Celebrates Fraternal Communion

Province of St. Philip the Apostle
Celebrates Fraternal Communion

The Salesian Rule stipulates that every community in the Congregation celebrate a day of fraternal communion--"community day"--each year, and that each province do so, as well.

So each spring, at the time of the annual meeting of the directors and pastors of the province with Fr. Provincial and the provincial council, as many confreres as can do so gather to celebrate Province Day.

This year the celebration for the New Rochelle Province, dedicated to St. Philip the Apostle, took place on March 24 in Our Lady of the Valley Church and in a nearby restaurant.

As noted elsewhere in this blog (Feb. 12, below), the province is going thru an extraordinary visitation by the regional general councilor, Fr. Esteban Ortiz. Fr. Ortiz completed the visitation of the Orange community on the morning of March 24 and, fittingly, was asked to preside at the Province Day Eucharist.

Fr. Ortiz, in violet chasuble, presiding at Mass, with Fr. Tom Dunne (provincial) and Fr. Steve Dumais (vice provincial) on either side. At the left are Fr. Steve Leake (director of the Orange community) and Fr. John Grinsell (pastor of Our Lady of the Valley).

About 85 confreres and candidates to SDB life came together for the Mass at 11:15 a.m. 51 priests concelebrated with Fr. Esteban. Young SDBs and candidates provided excellent music and served at the altar.

Fr. Tom Dunne, the provincial, preached the homily. Here's a summary of it, based on notes that your humble blogger took.

Fr. Ortiz, presiding today, is a link between us and the Rector Major, a sign of our intimate union with the entire Congregation.

I want to offer “a reflection on our gratefulness to God as a province,” to look at the gospel of the day (John 7:40-53) from the perspective of the province.

Jesus is in confrontation. There’s a division in the crowds, there’s suspicion on the part of the leaders, and the guards are caught in the middle.

Jesus perceives the threat he faces from the leaders (like the plot against Jeremiah [1st reading]).

The preaching of Jesus has been taking hold. But because of the threat he goes to Jerusalem quietly. When he is noticed anyway, he teaches—about “living water”—which gets a response: “This must be the prophet.” There’s a debate in the crowd, and the guards hesitate to arrest him: “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.” They recognize that something from God is here.

Jesus’ own “pastoral plan” of preaching in the hinterlands and of a guarded presence in Jerusalem doesn’t work out, as some of his other plans haven’t (“Let’s go aside and rest for a while…”; his wish to sit quietly by Jacob’s well).

Jesus knows what’s prudent, but when he meets people, “he’s filled with pastoral passion and can’t say no.”

In whose eyes do we find the energy to follow our vocation? For Jesus it was the people; for us it’s the young. The young brought out of Don Bosco the power expressed in the dream that he had at age 9.

The Rector Major tells us to go back to the playground in order to rejuvenate our vocation. The young give us our energy. We encounter the Lord Jesus together with the young. On Province Day we give thanks to God for our vocation.

The gospel ends with “each going to his own house.” We’ll do that later today. Some in the gospel went home changed from having met Jesus. We hope to go home renewed by meeting Christ and the young.

A view of most of the SDBs and candidates who celebrated Province Day at Our Lady of the Valley Church on March 24.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Durland Day

Durland Day

On St. Patrick's Day I was hiking, not marching; and then offering Saturday Vigil Mass for the Scouts and Scouters prepping for a NYLT (National Youth Leadership Training) program at Durland Scout Reservation in Putnam Valley, N.Y.
The Scout camp was called Clear Lake Reservation until a couple of years ago. This is a little portion of Clear Lake, one of 2 ponds in the camp. The area has many other lakes.

I hiked north on the blue trail--not from its starting point by Sperling Pond but after parking by campsite 38 and taking a woods trail to intersect it between Sperling Pond and Clear Lake. Going north after leaving the lake, you come to one of the many swamps along the trails--at this time alive with noisy peepers.

Entering the northern part of the camp, one's on trails accessible to the general public, e.g. from Fahnestock State Park. I went east on the white trail and met a large troop of not-large Scouts coming the other way. I'd already seen them twice on the road up to site 38 and then at site 38; they were making a very long hike. Good for them!

The white trail in the northeast section of the reservation seems to go thru old, old farmland, crisscrossed everywhere by stone walls.

A long stretch of the trail passes between these stone walls. I suppose the trail was once a farm road.

Behind some of the walls there are the ruins of foundations--whether of houses, barns, or root cellars, it's hard to tell.

The white trail twice crosses this brook, and between the crossings it's not far away much of the route.

My hike was only an hour and 45 minutes; mileage unknown. I had to be back at NYLT's cabin by 4:15 to change for sacramental ministry. Some Scouts had asked me to be available for Reconciliation, which I was at 4:30.
Then the Catholics doing NYLT (about half the gang) and Troop 312 from Island Park, N.Y., assembled for Mass.

The 4th Sunday of Lent, called Laetare Sunday from the 1st word of the Entrance Antiphon in Latin, meaning "Rejoice!", is one of 2 Sundays in the year when the celebrant has the option of wearing rose-colored vestments as a break from the more somber violet ones of Lent (and Advent), marking more or less the halfway point thru the seasons. As I vested, I explained each vestment to the Scouts; to my chagrin, even one of my former Ad Altare Dei boys didn't remember their names!--which reflects on teacher as well as on pupil.

My thanks to Donna Ragusa for using my camera during Mass; she wanted pix, and I was happy to oblige her.

It's not always easy to get teen boys to sing in church, but these lads joined in heartily with a Lenten hymn (instead of the "Rejoice, Jerusalem" antiphon).

They were even attentive during the homily! A slightly longer version of it is posted below.

Using the new Roman Missal....
At the end of Mass, Troop 312 asked for a photo with me. I joked that some CCD teacher must want proof that Confirmation students were at Mass. "No," they said, "we've got to show our priest!" Yes, Fr. Tutone, they attended Mass this weekend.

After Mass our excellent trio of chefs (Gordon Hamilton, Donna Ragusa, and Bob Ciralli) continued/resumed working on supper--not only the traditional Irish recollection of their immigrant misery (aka corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes) but also turkey breast, sauteed onions, and garden salad. Excellent! Topped off by "oreo cake," i.e. cheesecake with chocolate top and bottom (that they didn't make).

While Gordon, Donna, and Bob prepared supper, the rest of the valiant corps of adult guides relaxed on the porch: Jaime Feliberty, Mike Herbert, and Fred Gervat.

The NYLT Scouters and the Scouts are a great crew, and I've been privileged to minister to them for quite a few years (neither Fred nor I have kept count).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent

Homily for the
4th Sunday of Lent

John 3: 14-21
NYLT, Putnam Valley, N.Y.
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison, N.Y.
March 18, 2012

“The light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil” (John 3:19).

Have you ever gone into a kitchen or pantry, turned on the light, and seen a couple dozen cockroaches scurry into a dark corner and under the baseboards? (If you haven’t, you’re not from New York!) They don’t like the light at all. They do whatever icky things cockroaches do in the darkness.

Jesus uses a similar image. It’s one we’re all familiar with. More criminal activity takes place at nite, in the dark, than in broad daylight. In the Middle Ages, and in our own colonial period, no one went out at nite without real necessity, because they believed that evil spirits roamed about in the darkness, perhaps like the Dark Lord and his Death Eater friends. Moviemakers know how to use darkness and shadows to give us the creeps.

Not only criminals and movie monsters love the dark. So do all of us sinners. When we do something wrong, something evil—lying, cheating, stealing, bullying, premarital sexual activity, acts of cruelty, and a long list of other sins—we try to do it secretly and keep it secret. When we admit to ourselves that we’ve sinned, we’re ashamed and don’t want anyone to know about it. It’s even hard for us to go to confession.

St. John Bosco sometimes had the gift from God of reading consciences. His biography has a dozen pages of testimonies about that (Giovanni Battista Lemoyne, SDB, The Biographical Memoirs of Saint John Bosco, trans. Diego Borgatello, SDB, vol. 6 [New Rochelle, 1971], pp. 257-267). On the positive side, this enabled him to help boys confess their sins—he could just name a sin, and they could nod or say “yes.” His biographer tells us: “So deeply convinced were the boys that Don Bosco could see in their consciences not only external sins but even innermost thoughts, that nearly all wanted to go to confession to him. ‘With him we are surer to make good confessions and Communions,’ they claimed. ‘If we forget any sin, he will surely recall it to us.’ It is a fact that his confessional was always crowded with boys.” (p. 258).
Photo (posed, in fact) of DB hearing confessions at the Oratory, ca. 1860

But those still “living in the darkness” didn’t like that. The biographer also tells us: “Some boys kept their distance from him. If they had to go near him for some reason or other, while respectfully doffing their caps, they still tried to shield their foreheads with them or with their hair, as if that were enough to hide their consciences…. ‘Don Bosco reads our sins on our foreheads,’ they said.” (p. 265).
But “the light came into the world”—Jesus Christ—in order to bring life, to bring joy, not fear, not punishment. There are a very few creatures living in the very deepest, darkest parts of the oceans and in the deepest, darkest caves in the earth who never see light or feel the sun’s warmth. But just about every living creature needs light, and the warmth associated with light, in order to live and to grow: flowers and crops and even people. Think of how hard it is for you to get going on a gloomy day; not even 16 cups of coffee helps. And how alive you feel when the sun’s shining brightly, like today. And now that the days are getting longer and warmer, you can look around and see the daffodils and the crocuses are starting to pop out, the forsythia and the magnolias to bud, and the trees to leaf out.

That’s an image of what God wants for us. In his 1st chapter St. John writes, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. To those who accepted him, he gave the power to become children of God” (1:9,12). In the passage we heard a few minutes ago, he says further, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (3:16); and “God sent his Son into the world that it might be saved thru him” (3:17).

The Collect or opening prayer of today’s Mass observed that God “reconciles the human race” to himself “in a wonderful way.” That wonderful way is the gift of his Son. It’s the call for us to bask in the light of the Son—turning away from the darkness in our hearts and letting God’s love, God’s forgiveness, envelop us and fill us with light. When God so envelops us and fills us with light, we become luminous. In the words of the book of Daniel, “The wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever” (12:3). You always wanted to be a star, didn’t you? That’s why when you were baptized you were given a baptismal candle, lit from the Easter candle: you share in the light of Christ, Christ who is the light of the world, and you are to enlighten the world with his light.

You have perhaps heard the little story of a boy being shown the wonders of the parish church by his mom. When she pointed out to him the stained glass windows, filled with images of the saints, she asked him whether he knew who the saints were. “Yes,” he assured her. “They’re the people the light shines thru.” That’s who God calls all of us to be: “the light came into the world…. Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God” (John 3:19,21). No running for a dark corner like a cockroach; no pulling hair over our foreheads to hide our consciences!
Stained-glass window of St. Ann with her daughter, the Virgin Mary (Holy Rosary Church, Port Chester)
“God is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us” and has “brought us to life with Christ,” St. Paul reminds us (Eph 2:4-5). God wants so much to give us this grace, this undeserved gift (cf. 2:5-9)! Nothing on earth and no power of darkness “can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Paul says elsewhere (Rom 8:38-39).
So in this sacred season of Lent, this season of conversion and re-conversion, of recommitment to Jesus, light of the world, we need have no fear of examining our consciences, of admitting our faults, our sins, our guilt, and bringing them to Jesus—in the person of his priestly minister—and letting Jesus’ love warm us up and keep us growing into that “handiwork” that God created us to be, “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph 2:10) and for eternal life (John 3:16).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Baby Ransomed!

Baby Ransomed!

Those of us of a certain age--you may remain anonymous--remember when some Catholic missionary association or other used to urge the faithful to "ransom a pagan baby" by donating to the association so that it help missionaries preach the Gospel. In a book called What Is the Mission of the Church (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2008), Roger P. Schroeder remembers "collecting pennies in a little cardboard coin box to 'ransom a pagan baby' [in the 1960s]. I wrote the baptismal name a child would receive at baptism by a missionary in a faraway land on the outside of the box. My classmates and I proudly processed with our 'mission boxes' to the front of the classroom."

During my seminary days, while we were doing weekend ministry at a certain parish in the Columbus suburbs, there were often Baptisms after the last Sunday Mass. The kindly pastor didn't much like doing Baptisms and generally charged the deacon-in-training with them. So some of the confreres serving there, both deacons and others, took to referring to the Baptisms as "ransoming pagan babies."

Which in a real sense is exactly true. Jesus himself says, "The Son of Man give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).

So last Sunday I had the privilege of "ransoming" Anita Mae, claiming her for Jesus against the real Dark Lord (not the fictitious one in Harry Potter).
The pastor of St. Lawrence Church in Shelton watched as I poured the water and spoke the sacred words over Anita (and later anointed her with chrism). Fr. Jones did 3 Baptisms himself in the same ceremony.

Mom Meghan, Dad Pete, Godfather Ben, and Godmother Stephanie are happy as can be. Aunt Margot took this photo and the one above.

How many Baptisms have Dixieland music? Grandpa Fred (at left) and his Sportin' Life combo played "When the Saints Go Marching In" as the rite finished (they played a couple of other pieces at the beginning and as an interlude).

Congrats, Anita Mae, and welcome into the community of God's people! May Christ's light brighten all your days and your eternity!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dom Savio HS Holds "Great Savio Reunion"

Dom Savio High School
Holds “Great Savio Reunion”

Caselli Hall, the main school building of St. Dominic Savio HS and Savio Prep
An estimated 450 former students and faculty of St. Dominic Savio HS and Savio Prep in East Boston showed up for the Great Savio Reunion on Saturday night, March 10, at what is now the Salesian Boys & Girls Club of East Boston. The SDBs operated Dom Savio from 1958 to 1993. A group of alumni set up Savio Prep a couple of years later and ran it until 2007.

There were even a few alumni of Don Bosco Trade School, which preceded Dom Savio at the site (1946-1955) before relocating to downtown Boston as Don Bosco Tech.

The reunion was planned over the course of several months by alumni Steve Fielding and Fr. John Nazzaro, both of the Class of 1972. Steve is now the director of development and communications for the Boys & Girls Club, and Fr. John is executive director as well as director of the local community of four SDBs who serve at the Club.

The event invited "alumni, former teachers, administrators, and coaches of both schools to attend and renew acquaintances, recapture memories, and rebuild relationships." Steve and Fr. John also hoped that interest in the current Boys & Girls Club would be stirred, including "the club's impact on youth in the East Boston, Revere, and Winthrop communities."
Fr. John said that about 280 alumni and staff had indicated that they would come, and more were expected. More, indeed! Volunteers registering participants at the front desk had 400 name tags, and they ran out. More seriously, downstairs in the kitchen they were running out of liquid refreshments!

Steve and Fr. John had arranged for a band, the North Shore’s Hardest Working Band, made up of Savio alums (Chris Snow ’84; Joe Maraio ’98, Vinny Schettino ’04, and others), to perform on the stage in the gym. Unfortunately for the Hardest Working Band, about 98% of the crowd preferred to stay down in the old cafeteria, working on the free sandwiches and plates of fruit and veggies, and staying close to beer, soda, and water at the cash bar.
The Voice of the (“17-time NBA champion”) Celtics, Eddie Palladino ’75 (above, center), welcomed everyone to the evening and credited Dom Savio with giving him a chance to develop his announcing skills. Then he introduced Fr. John (above with mike), who likewise made everyone feel at home. That was the end of the speechifying, which was a good thing because not many people were listening, not even when the winner of the 50-50 raffle was announced around 10:00 p.m.
The alumni and staff spent most of the four hours of the evening—actually, it went longer than the announced 11:00 p.m. closing time—talking with one another, catching up on families and careers, reminiscing about school days, and asking about some of the Salesians they’d known. Many of them voiced their deep appreciation for what the Salesians and other faculty had taught them, and not only in an academic sense. There were a lot of fond memories of Fr. Joe Caselli, Bro. George Sheehan, Fr. Don Zarkoski, Fr. Pat Diver, and many others.

If there had been a prize for the participant who traveled the farthest to get to the Great Reunion, the winner, hands down, would have been former SDB brother Pat Whalen, who did his practical training at Savio, 1968-1971, and came all the way from Brisbane, Australia, to catch up with some of his former students (and with former SDBs Tom Lennon, who taught at Savio, and George Stanton, who attended Savio). Pat moved “down under” shortly after leaving the SDBs and had a 40-year teaching career in both public and Catholic schools.

The Class of 1977 claimed the biggest representation at the evening, with at least 17 attendees—not counting their freshman dean/English teacher, who came up from New Rochelle for the evening. Big question from them: "How old were you when you taught us? Only 24! Wow!" (Boy, are freshmen green!)
Most of the Class of 1977 who were in attendance, with your humble blogger

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Homily for 2d Sunday of Lent

Homily for the
2d Sunday of Lent

March 4, 2012
Mark 9: 2-10
Ursulines, Willow Dr., New Rochelle

“Nourish us inwardly by your word” (Collect).

The Collect for this 2d Sunday of Lent is based on the gospel reading, which is always one of the Synoptic accounts of the Transfiguration. The key idea seems to be “listen.” The prayer alludes explicitly to that command from heaven: “Listen to my beloved Son” (Mark 9:7).

Then the prayer itself is uttered: “Nourish us inwardly by your word.” Pardon the pun, but there’s a play on words there.

God’s word is food for our souls: “Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deut 8:3). God’s word feeds us, as Jesus tells the people in the synagog at Capernaum (John 6:41-51) the day after he’s miraculously fed the huge crowd with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish (John 6:1-14). God’s word elevates us, inspires us, captures us, converts us, transforms us into his holy people—but only if we listen to it, take it in, absorb it, let it become part of us, as our bodies do with food.

It’s not only a written word or a spoken word that the prayer refers to, however. “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14); it’s of this Word that the Father commands, “Listen to him.” Jesus is the ultimate nourishment of our hearts, our minds, our souls —whatever the Collect means by “inwardly.” The food that is Jesus comes to us in his teaching that we read in the NT and hear in preaching, true; more important, he comes to us in a personal relationship: “Rabbi, it’s good that we’re here!” (Mark 9:5)—not to mention that he comes to us in the Holy Eucharist and all that implies: “Say but the word, and my soul shall be healed!” (Communion rite).

All of that healing and nurturing and transforming of us from what St. Paul calls “the earthly man” or “the flesh” into “the spiritual man” (cf. 1 Cor 15:36-49; Gal 5:16-26), into God’s redeemed person, has to begin inwardly. Well aware of that, Jesus warns us that all manner of sins—and he has quite a list—begin in the heart, and it’s those desires, those aspirations, those intentions that render a person unclean in God’s eyes (cf. Mark 7:20-23). St. James says something similar: “Where do the wars and conflicts among you come from? Isn’t it from your passions…? You covet but don’t possess. You kill and envy but you can’t obtain. Don’t you know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God?” (4:1-2,4).

So our inner person, our deepest self, needs to be converted, needs to submit to God’s Word and be fed by him. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

The Collect continues: “…that, with spiritual sight made pure, we may rejoice to behold your glory.” When I clean my glasses, I see better. The word of God cleanses our vision: Christ is our light, as catechumens will celebrate on the 4th Sunday of Lent when they hear, in the A Cycle of readings, the gospel of Jesus curing the man born blind, and as we’ll all proclaim in the solemn Easter liturgy. When the word of God takes root in our inner selves, we see and judge the world differently. Unconverted—blind—Peter objects to the Messiah’s future passion and death, and Jesus rebukes him severely: “Get behind me, Satan! The way you think isn’t God’s way but man’s” (Mark 8:31-33). When our spiritual sight has been purified, we see people as God’s daughters and sons. We see God’s hand at work in our life circumstances. We see God leading us as rapidly as we’ll allow him toward a closer and closer union with him—a union that will culminate in what we call the beatific vision: “we rejoice to behold your glory.”

Till then we see flashes of his glory, as Peter, James, and John did on Mt. Tabor. We see or experience flashes of divine glory in the goodness of so many people in our lives, and people we only read or hear about. We see or experience it in deep friendships. We see it in the quiet beauty and the awful power of nature. We see it in the sublime work of artists, musicians, even writers, with their power to transport us. We see it in the peace that comes to us when we encounter him in prayer or in rising “purely” above our own passions to forgive someone or to put aside our selfishness and pride in service of our sisters and brothers. We see it in the sacred liturgy when it’s done well; one reason why these rites are often called “mysteries” is their unexplainable power (“ineffable” power, to use a word from the revised Missal) to bring us into another world, into the divine presence. The Prayer after Communion will allude to this, as we thank the Lord “for allowing us while still on earth to be partakers even now of the things of heaven.”

Even now it is “good for us to be here,” to stand before the Lord, to listen to the beloved Son, and to open our minds and hearts and souls to his grace—to be renewed, to be nudged a little further along on the path toward heavenly glory.

Illustration: Mosaic of the Transfiguration in the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.