Monday, February 25th 2013


By Ingerid Meagher

Ingerid.jpgTRANSFIGURATION HOMILY (Luke 9, 28-36)

Jesus’ disciples frequently fail to understand what Jesus was on about.  They get it so wrong at times.  Peter in particular tends to put his foot in it and I suspect James only understood what following Jesus meant when he was executed in Jerusalem some 11 years later.

Together with Peter, James and John, Christ’s inner circle, his most spiritual disciples, Jesus went up the sacred mountain, which most likely was the almost 3000 metre high Mount Hermon, some 20 km away from Ceasarea Phillipi, a day’s walk.  Even if they went half way up the mountain, the climb would have been exhausting.  I tell you I valued my comfy bed recently after climbing 1400 metres up the Pyrenees at the beginning of my Pilgrimage.

So Peter, James and John dozed off.  You know that twilight state of consciousness when you are not quite sure if what is happening around you is real or imagined.  They miss the conversation between Jesus, Moses and Elijah but then become fully awake and all they see is glory.  They miss the point once more.

All Peter can think of is prolonging the experience of the sacred, wanting to stay, be safe and secure in the familiar. Three booths to contain the Divine.  A common desire in most world religions.  We Christians have had a need to do this too for the past 2000 years.

To be fair, the disciples may have just celebrated the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles – a thanks giving for God’s goodness in providing for the Jews during the desert wanderings from Egypt to Canaan. Jews were required, and still continue the custom, to build a tent and symbolically live there for 8 days to remind them of their life in the desert.

Jesus’ attention though was not on His Glory but on the task ahead.  Jesus faced his journey, his personal exodus, to Jerusalem, and his inevitable suffering and immanent death.  Not quite the glorious messianic expectations the three disciples had!

The story of the Transfiguration is richly laden with symbolism and many layers of meaning and interpretation that frustratingly can’t be covered by a ten-minute homily.

It is important to focus briefly on the relationship between Jesus and his visitors, Moses, the lawgiver and Elijah the great prophet.  The scene of this meeting can be interpreted as pointing to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  Thus Jesus is the new and sole source of authority affirmed by the voice from the cloud:  “This is my Son. My Chosen; listen to him.

The transfiguration story is immediately followed by the story of the demon-possessed boy (or did he suffer epilepsy?), a further affirmation of Jesus’ status as the Son of God, the Chosen One, but also his mission, and I quote Dr Dorothy Lee: Jesus’ radiance on the mountain is directed to the tragic realities of the world, with all its suffering and need.

Whilst Jesus’ transfiguration offers complex and fascinating layers of meaning, how utterly appropriate that we should link Jesus’ transfiguration with our own transfiguration, with the transfiguration of society, of humanity and ultimately the universe.

It is, if you like, says Dr Gerard Hall, Ass Prof Theol ACU, up to us to keep the Jesus-story alive through faithful yet enterprising discipleship and interpretation.

And so in the century gone by and in this century we grapple with the serious issue of eco-justice.  We have already experienced the consequences of climate change, deforestation, corporate greed, over production, over consumption, our addiction to oil and what it does to our environment and world economy and peace. Those consequences are tragic.  Our very existence depends on the integrity and quality of the web of life.

Recently I mentioned within earshot of my 12 year old grandson that I wanted to buy Krill oil capsules.  I was instantly rebuked and lectured on the reason why I should not buy Krill oil capsules.  D’Arcy drew me a marine life pyramid showing krill to be almost at the bottom of the food chain.  Next to the pyramid he wrote extensively about Krill harvesting and the impact on the balance of life in the ocean and the far reaching consequences when making inroads on this valuable food source.  I have since learned too that farmed salmon requires an enormous quantity of krill to effect weight gain in salmon.

Environmental ethics puts us in a dilemma.  I am impressed with the eco-savvy-ness of our youth and it fills me with hope and confidence that the next generations do care and are passionate about caring for the environment.

I was struck some weeks ago by the plight of the Indigenous Bolivian peoples whose staple diet is the quinoa seed.  Western or 1st World society has discovered the beneficial properties of this high protein food.  And in its eagerness to incorporate this seed in the diet, it has pushed up the price of the crop so that now the use of the seed is out of reach of the locals.

Another tale of woe is the expected presidential approval in Brazil of the Belo Monte Dam that threatens to displace more than 40 000 native, so-called, Riverine People.  What a price to be paid for the “quality of life” and our so-called “modern comforts”.

The issues have caused me to reflect on how we can meet our fundamental needs without impacting the living web.

The tales of woe from around the world are endless.  The petitions to right-the-wrongs arrive daily in one’s email in-box.

Corporate giants like Coles and Woolworths, who present as benign do-gooders, have been a source of great irritation to me when I see the invidious sales technique, for example, by Coles of offering 2 items for the price of 1 1/2. I am guilty of being persuaded to benefit from this offer.  I suppose most of us are?  It makes common sense especially for people on a tight budget.  But having more than you need in the fridge or in the pantry, does this not encourage over consumption?

And whilst we are onto supermarkets – did you know that independent suppliers of grocery items have to pay a fee to place their stock on the shelves of that “duopoly” Coles-Woolworths? This problem of shelf price was described on ABC’s the Drum recently.  It needs to be addressed by legislation if the independent suppliers are to survive.

In all of these issues a new environmental ethic is needed that may have to mean a radical transformation of civilization based on a new global understanding of economy – one without growth.

You might like to explore the insights of Richard Heinberg, a Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and who is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost Peak Oil educators. His latest book The End of Economic Growth: Adapting to our new economic reality’ deals with declining resources and environmental limits.  It  describes what policymakers, communities, and families can do to build a new economy that operates within Earth’s budget of energy and resources. We can thrive during the transition if we set goals that promote human - and environmental well-being, rather than continuing to pursue the now-unattainable prize of ever-expanding GDP.

Dr David Suzuki in his book The Sacred Balance says to put your trust in non-governmental organization or grass roots groups, not in organizations funded by vested interests.  He advises to:

  • Stay alert!
  • Think critically
  • Make informed choices in your daily life!
  • Trust your common sense
  • Project your mind to the future and act with seriousness to alleviate problems of toxic pollution, deforestation or climate change.

The world’s healing hinges on love and ultimately the love that Jesus showed.  We can make a difference if we exercise love and have concern for the welfare of all of Creation.

I want to conclude this homily by telling you my own transfiguration story, an epiphany experience, when I was eight years old.  I vividly remember the moment, in my bedroom, tucked up in bed, pondering the subject of heaven and hell.  I can’t remember what precipitated this preoccupation.  In the Mennonite tradition that I grew up in, hell and damnation hardly featured.  My concern was focused on the unfairness that some people would go to heaven and others to hell.  I solved the problem with a child-like logic:  All people go to heaven - a place of great love, because, after all, isn’t God Love?  But some people have never experienced love during their lifetime and so will not recognize that all embracing love that is heaven. It took many decades for me to understand the implication of my own youthful theory – that of the grave responsibility that each of us carries for our fellow creatures - that of the handing over of a template for love that will allow each and everyone to experience the Divine and ultimately that state which we call heaven.

I offer part of a prayer written by Scottish poet Kate McIlhagga:

Christ our light, Hear us as we pray for our world: Shrouded in a cloud of famine, war and pollution, Tainted and deformed by grim deceit. Bring healing.          Bring peace Christ our friend, Hear us as we pray for ourselves: For clarity about the future, For sensitivity in our relationships, for courage to face tomorrow, As we explore on the plain The implications of the mountain top. Bring healing Bring peace.    Amen