Thursday, August 6, 2009
Learning To Be Transfigured by Love
Wherever it is that you and I find ourselves at this moment -- wherever on this earth we call our island home, in whatever country or nation, whatever state, whatever village, town, or city, whatever family, whatever parish, if we have one, whatever community, whatever place of work or school, whatever relationship -- "it is good for us to be here." It's good because this is exactly where the Father shows you and me the Son, Jesus: through the creation around us,
through the social, political, economic, psychological, religious organisms/institutions/mechanisms which are the back-drop of our lives, through the specific characteristics and variations of our interrelationships, and even through all that we see amiss around us, including all our own and others' deficiencies, inabilities, handicaps, failings -- "the disquietude of this world", as today's Collect puts it.
At our best God reveals the Son to us in the sharing together of the Scriptures, in sacramental signs of inward and spiritual grace, and particularly in the Eucharist. "This is my Son, my Chosen..." And in this place, with these particular sisters and brothers, in the midst of the challenges facing us to proclaim, by word and example, Christ's Good News to those in this community, with these resources which we have, meager as they are at times, God bids us to "listen to Him!", to Jesus the Chosen One, the Beloved.
What does that mean to you and me: "listen to Him"? Where is God inviting you and me to go? What does God ask you and me to leave behind? How is God asking you and me to change or be changed by listening to Him? In other words, what does it mean for God, who transfigured Moses and Jesus, to transform/transfigure you and me through Christ?
Surely it must have to do primarily with love, which God is and which God has poured out upon us in Jesus, the Beloved, in the Resurrection/Ascension/Pentecost mystery. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, great 12th century Cistercian abbot, wrote magnificently about love. He says: "Of all our motivating relationships, love is the greatest, especially love that is returned to God."
That's the whole purpose of your life and mine: to love God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love the neighbor as oneself. Bernard says that there are two realities which should keep us growing in relationship with God, despite the awareness of personal sin and selfishness: 1) God emptied Godself in Christ, for love: the means. 2) God did this that we might become filled, identified, oned with Christ: the fruit. The first reality cultivates HOPE. The second reality cultivates LOVE. And both are necessary. St. Bernard: "Hope without love is like a prisoner marking off days on his calendar. Love that is not returned gradually diminishes."
"...let us love one another, because love is from God. Everyone who loves
is a child of God and knows God, but the unloving know nothing of God.
For God is love; and God's love was disclosed to us in this, that God
sent God's only Son into the world to bring us life...
If God thus loved us,...we in turn are bound to love one another...
Godself dwells in us if we love one another; God's love is brought to perfection within us..."
(1 John 4:7-9; 11-12)
But how are we to learn this -- how are we to be transfigured by Love? Bernard replies simply: "Let Christ teach you how to love him!"
The Gospel is our textbook as Christians for learning how to love, both God and one another. In the Gospel we learn by example, by how Jesus acted; and we learn by actually loving, by doing as Jesus did in relation to the Father and other people. St. Bernard again: "Love is the only activity of the soul that allows a creature to respond to its Creator."
In one of his 86 sermons on the Song of Songs, Bernard speaks tenderly of the mutual love between the soul and God who is Love:
"...You should understand that if your soul seeks God, God has sought it...
The desire [of the soul to love God] is the product of God's activity...
[The soul] loves because she is loved. Love prompts the search [for God]. The search proves love.
You will not seek until you are sought. When you are sought, you can't help searching...
The Word teaches this. When you believe it, you have been found...
Everything you need is in the Word..."
"This is my Son, my Chosen -- listen to him!"