This week we “lament, and grieve our own complicity in the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 on the Feast of the Transfiguration. The atomic bomb became a symbol of humanity’s capacity for negative transfiguration.”
So writes Father Richard Rohr, keenly aware that he lives near “Trinity Site,” where the bomb was tested before it was used to destroy two cities in Japan. “This is a reminder to me,” he wrote, “that my capacity for evil is as close as my backyard and my own shadow [myself].”
Transfiguration marks the time when Jesus climbed a mountain with two of his disciples—Peter and James—and was transfigured before their eyes. It was a profound spiritual experience when “dazzling brightness which emanated from His whole Body was produced by an interior shining of His Divinity.”*
Whether or not you are American, I thought Rohr’s devotional on the subject was both timely and universal enough to share portions with you. May the anniversary give all of us us pause to remember and reflect.
In considering the life message of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, a French Carmelite nun who lived just over a hundred years ago, the contrast between WHO WE ARE and WHO WE COULD BE is stark indeed. Rohr went on:
“What if we had studied the “science of love” in the Little Way as she did? Harnessing the energy in the smallest interactions, moment by moment, we might have found that, indeed, “Love is as strong as Death” (Song of Songs 8:6). What if we had practiced confidence as Thérèse did–as deep trust in the mercy, love, and goodness of God? Maybe we would not have found ourselves in the position where good people participated in the continual “sin of the world” (John 1:29), which I am convinced is ignorant killing. Endless forms of ignorant killing are destroying the world. We need to recognize our own personal and structural violence. The death instinct always comes from people who are unconscious, unaware, and indeed do not know what they are doing. Now we can hear Jesus on the cross and know why he said, “Forgive them, Father, they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34). When we love, we do know what we are doing! Love, if it is actually love, is always a highly conscious act. We do evil when we slip into unconsciousness.”
“Thérèse learned the “science of love” not by willfully forcing herself to be loving, but by being aware of and learning from the times she was tempted to be unloving or overly attached to her own emotions.
“As Carl Jung taught after the First World War, so much external hatred and carnage could only have emerged if it was preceded by decades of inner fear, hatred, and negativity that grew unchecked and unrecognized. Because the inner world was not healed or renewed, Jung predicted that another blood bath was on its way, which of course became the Second World War. Thérèse showed us the way out of this pattern by addressing the foundational cause of all historical wars and hatred: the blindness and the fears of the human heart.”**
So the bottom line is this. We must recognize that both the best and the worst of humanity are not just OUT THERE, they are IN US. We all have the capacity to be and contribute amazing goodness and horrific suffering.
When we see the sin and shortcomings of others, we do well to pause and reflect on our own hearts and minds.
In the mindset of Sister Simone Campbell, we need to move beyond anger; we need to be broken by the pain and injustices we see in the world.
And humility would teach us that we are as capable of the same wrongs that we so easily judge.
To repeat Rohr’s words: “When we love, we do know what we are doing! Love, if it is actually love, is always a highly conscious act.”
* New Advent article on “Transfiguration,” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15019a.htm
** Richard Rohr’s entire devotional from August 6, 2015 can be retrieved here.