Donna Rougeux, ARCWP, and Mary Skelly led the Upper Room’s liturgy for the Third Sunday in Lent with the theme: Unexplainable encounters that change us. Donna’s homily reflection follows the readings below.
First Reading: When Love Gives Way
Glaciers crack and groan,
Tearing into drifting floes
Rivers course and pound the shore,
Flowing into new tributaries.
Trunks grow branches and twigs,
Reaching for the clouds and stars.
Lovers, friends and siblings drift
Apart with reluctance and surprise
As if their one time love was something
That could have been locked in,
Impervious to the pull of time
And assorted, sometimes sordid paths they choose.
Some of us are lured into the unknown
and so become more ourselves;
Revelatory for us but mystifying
To others who feel less need of change.
Others of us are devoted to what we cherish
and so define ourselves;
Reassuring for us but claustrophobic
For others who prize momentum.
Despite everyone’s wishes, loving gives way
Misunderstandings devolve into fear, righteousness, and judgment.
Oh, to be the trunk that doesn’t begrudge the branch or twig!
To be the tributary streaming away yet thankful to mother river!
To be the stolid glacier, melting and reforming into one whole!
If only people could drift with our casting each other adrift.
Then, it would be in our human nature
For one time love to spread
And trust to find a home
In our most tender hearts.
These are the inspired words of an ARCWP Priest and the community affirms them by saying: Amen
Gospel: Luke 9:28-36
Jesus took Peter, John and James and went up onto the mountain to pray. While Jesus was praying, his face changed in appearance and the clothes he wore became dazzlingly white.
Suddenly two people were there talking with Jesus-Moses and Elijah.
They appeared in glory and spoke of the prophecy that Jesus was about to fulfill in Jerusalem.
Peter and the others had already fallen into a deep sleep, but awakening, they saw Jesus’ glory-and the two people who were standing next to him.
When the two were leaving, Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, how good it its for us to be here!Let’s set up three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah!” Peter didn’t really know what he was saying.
While Peter was speaking, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and the disciples grew fearful as the others entered it.
Then from the cloud came a voice which said, “This is my Own, my Chosen One. Listen to him!”
When the voice finished speaking, they saw no one but Jesus standing there. The disciples kept quiet, telling nothing of what
they had seen at that time to anyone.
These are the inspired readings from the gospel of Luke and the community affirms them by saying: Amen
Donna’s Homily Reflection:
Karl Rahner is a theologian who describes God as Absolute Mystery. Rahner posits that this Absolute Mystery reveals his/herself with self-communication. This revelation does not resolve the mystery; it increases cognizance of God’s incomprehensibility. Mystery therefore will always be incomprehensible and always revealing itself. This is what today’s gospel reading is describing. A similar story to the transfiguration is the story of Moses and the burning bush. A story about Abraham encountering an invitation to be in a covenant relationship with the God pictures God as a burning pot. These stories are describing theophanies. A theophany is a visible manifestation of God to humankind. These manifestations to humankind of the Absolute Mystery continue throughout history into the present day.
St Patrick, who’s feast day is today, described a theophany that he experienced in one of his books. He writes about a vision he encountered, “I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: "The Voice of the Irish". As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people…and they cried out, as with one voice: "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.” This vision had such a transformational effect on Patrick that we still celebrate his life today and call him the patron saint of Ireland.
When Absolute Mystery reveals his/her self to us we are changed in a variety of ways. The poem that is our first reading today illustrates ways nature and people are changed when God or as the poem says “when love gives way.” God is love and gives way or breaks into our world causing glaciers to crack and groan, trunks to grow branches and twigs and people to grow into their authentic selves.
What are the stories about theophanies and our own experiences of mystery trying to teach us? First, we cannot contain mystery by putting up tents like Peter wanted to do in today’s story. Even though we are tempted to keep our mountain top experiences in safe places like tents or tabernacles, mystery is bigger than us and uncontainable. Second theophanies are always breaking into our existence and changing us. A beautiful sunset, the birth of a child, being present for the last breath of a loved one, are all experiences of the Absolute Mystery.
We cannot help but be aware of the awe and fear that can arise in the face of Mystery and the incomprehensibility of the encounter. Third we are being challenged to let go of thinking we have all the answers. We are being called into something bigger than us but at the same time into something that gives us meaning purpose and life that is worth living.
These unexplainable encounters of mystery humble us, fascinate us, and call us to be one in the spirit with change and diversity. We are tempted to fight change, fear growth and contain the uncontainable. When we accept theophanies with gratitude, open hearts and a willingness to be changed we will be transformed in unimaginable ways. Division, judgement and misunderstandings can be transformed into wholeness, peace and authenticity.
Richard Rohr points to the awakening or enlightenment that happens when he reflects on today’s gospel reading and says, “Taking ordinary people ‘up a mountaintop by themselves’ sleepy men are about to be awakened. The stage is fully set for encounter and divine intimacy.”
God is always breaking in and inviting us to growth and change. Divine intimacy is God’s gift to us. Once we courageously accept this invitation our awakening begins and we can go back to sleep but like Jesus and Moses and all who have been called by love our journey is our destiny.