Thursday, August 6, 2015

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord: Some thoughts

Today is the glorious Feast of the Transfiguration. Today we commemorate when Christ Jesus took Peter, James, and John up Mount Tabor and was "transfigured" before them. Appearing alongside Him were Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets respectively. The apostles present there also heard the voice of the Father declare, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." As important as the law and the prophets are to God's plan of salvation, Jesus is God's final, perfect, word. The Transfiguration was a preview of what was to come in the Resurrection. It was glorious, an explosion of God in the world.

Seventy years ago, 6 August 1945, another explosion occurred that transfigured, or, more accurately, scarred the world. This one did not happen in the land we call Holy, but in Hiroshima, Japan. It was the detonation of an atomic bomb. A second bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on 9 August 1945. As a result of this, Japan formally surrendered on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 1945.

There is an important moral axiom that applies always, everywhere, and to all: one may not do evil that good may come of it, or, stated another way, ends do not justify means, even in war. According to the laws of Just War an important distinction must be made between combatants and non-combatants, that is, civilians. Just as with the firebombing of the German city of Dresden, the use of nuclear weapons against Japan is not morally justifiable. The most common justification I hear in favor of the bombings is that it forced the Japanese to surrender, thus preventing the U.S. from having to invade Japan in a D-Day-like manner. This argument continues - because we dropped two atomic bombs "millions" of lives were saved. No less a person than General Dwight Eisenhower opposed the use of nuclear weapons: "I was against it on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender, and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon."

On 6 August 1978 Bl Pope Paul VI passed into eternity at Castel Gandolfo. He was a holy and humble servant of God as well as a courageous and even prophetic leader. I was gratified when Pope Francis referred to him "the great Pope Paul VI." At the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council Papa Montini wrote this in his personal journal: "Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and savior." Suffer he did, but it did not deter him as he pressed forward with the conciliar reforms and experienced the chaos that rapidly ensued. In my view, there has been nothing promulgated since that comes close to the grandeur of his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi. It ought to be read and implemented as the magna carta for the New Evangelization. "This fidelity both to a message whose servants we are and to the people to whom we must transmit it living and intact is the central axis of evangelization" (Evangelii nuntiandi par 4).

Finally, of significance to our family, on 6 August 2011, our youngest son, Evan Gabriel was baptized by His Excellency now-Archbishop John Wester in the Cathedral of the Madeleine.

My friends, the Transfiguration bids us to look at Jesus, to follow Him. It gives a glimpse of the glory that awaits us. I don't know about you, but in Him I place my hope.

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