and the Ancient One took his throne. His clothing was bright as snow,
and the hair on his head as white as wool; his throne was flames of fire [Dan. 7:9]
On August 6, 1945, a great, blinding light rose over a Japanese city, the light from a weapon of mass destruction that obliterated a major part of the city’s population, a devastation that would shortly bring a long war to a quick end. Leaving aside the profound moral questions surrounding any use of such weapons which cause indiscriminate destruction of whole populations, the fact is that from that time on a great threat has existed for the whole human race, the threat of nuclear annihilation. This threat has forced powerful nations to search for ways of settling serious international disputes peacefully, so that such weapons will hopefully never again be used on this earth.
Unfortunately, however, the threat of nuclear war still remains a very real possibility in our world, for we have not yet found the way to a genuine peace that will help the world to avoid wars and other serious conflicts that continue to wreak great harm on the victims of these conflicts. These wars and armed conflicts today could well escalate one day into the kind of war that we rightly fear, total war with ever more powerful weapons of mass destruction. We still see the horror of such unbridled warfare in our day in many countries, which thank God do not have such weapons. But it is naive to think that this kind of total war, where civilians and military are no longer distinguished, could not happen in our day between powers that do in fact possess the weapons of mass destruction, and the number of countries that have such weapons is growing.
So where can we look for a solution, for a well grounded hope that peace can overcome hatred and injustice, thus preventing forever the war we rightly fear as rational men and women. The answer can only be found in Jesus Christ who truly is the Prince of Peace.
Perhaps we can begin our search for the answer to war in the date chosen to drop that first nuclear weapon, that is August 6, a day in the Church calendar that speaks of another blinding light from long ago on a mountain in Israel, a light that brought mankind a source of hope that is truly from another world. Today, August 6, is the feast of Christ’s Transfiguration, and we do well to climb that holy mountain once again with faith, and in the transfiguration of Jesus hopefully learn something critical not only for our personal salvation and the world to come, but for our very survival in the world we live in right now.
What mankind desperately needs to learn is that Jesus Christ is God’s greatest gift to the world of man, a gift bestowed to save us from our sins, and to save us from ourselves. On that mountain, three disciples were privileged to witness that blinding light that had come into the world, the light of God’s truth, of God’s very Word, of God’s Son, a light which was, except for that brief time on the mountain, hidden beneath the humble humanity that the Word of God assumed as his own in the womb of the Virgin. It is God’s supreme light alone Who can keep us from ever having to experience that man-made, awful light that is associated with the weapons of mass destruction, the weapons that threaten mankind’s very survival, if we cannot find a sure way of peace in this world. It is not these weapons in the first place that we should fear, but the evil and darkness of man’s sins, for sin is the true threat to our survival, and it has been so since the sin of Cain who murdered his brother Abel. The root of our problem of how to survive is ever the same, human sin. The difference is that today the trajectory of all sin toward death has at it’s disposal not spears or slingshots or guns but weapons that can kill the entire race. If man wants to survive, man must find a way to overcome war, which means a way to reign in sin and its destructive power.
The transfiguration testifies that God has in fact given us the way to overcome sin, the way to a sure peace, and that way is found only in God and in the One whom He sent to us, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the Redeemer of Man. If Jesus were only a man, we would have no real hope that he could overcome what threatens the whole human race. Of course, Jesus truly is a man with human limitations, except for sin. and for that reason we are drawn to him as a brother. But far more wonderfully, this man is also truly God, whose power to overcome sin and death is without any such human limitation. To assure us of this truth, three of His disciples were granted a momentary glimpse of his glory on that holy mountain, His overwhelming light that shone from his person and the cloud, the light that cast them on their faces as they witnessed the glory of God, and yet having seen this glory they lived to tell us about it. Jesus had hidden His divine glory so that his disciples would not fear to draw near to Him, but now it was for their benefit that this glory was allowed to break through for just a moment, so that they would recognize His divine power and thus not lose hope in the dark days that followed, in the days of his passion.
Of course, if all of this were mere religious myth, then we indeed have little reason to hope in Jesus Christ. That is why Peter goes out of his way to insist that this was no human fantasy – that they really saw this great light of Jesus on the mountain, that they were stunned by it and thrown to the ground, and that they were terrified until they saw Jesus once again as their human companion, friend and master, alone on the mountain.
Obviously there were those even then who mocked all this as a product of their vivid imaginations, claiming that it was all myth, and that explains why Peter testifies in today’s second reading that he does not deal in myths or fables, and that it was no illusion that cast them on their faces that day. Men do not lay down their lives for myths they themselves concoct, but these men were ready to die for Christ, and they indeed would die for Him one day.
Jesus, the God-man is our only hope, the hope given to us by the Father of lights, the Father of the great light that has come into the world to transform men and thus make peace a real possibility for each of us, and for all of us. But there is one condition for this hope to be realized, and the voice from the cloud makes that condition clear. “Listen to Him!” said the voice, listen to him, obey him, for he is my beloved whom I have sent for your salvation both in this world and in the world to come.
Sadly, the world is not really listening to Christ these days, and that is the ultimate danger, the ultimate threat to the fragile peace that holds in our world, the fearsome threat that hangs over our head because of human sin. If we want true peace, then we must listen to Christ. We must desire his truth more than life itself, and we must open ourselves to His truth no matter what the personal cost. He alone is the Lord, and thus He alone can offer us the real possibility of Eternal Life and peace on earth. Hopefully enough men will believe enough in His light to fall on their faces and become his true disciples. That is the way to our personal salvation, and that is the way to the peace we pray for today especially on August 6.
Categories: Weekday reflections