Bound For Glory: Transfiguration Spirituality

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Part of "Bound For Glory: Transfiguration Spirituality"

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#set-bound-for-glory-transfiguration-spirituality

#preached-retreat

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Jesus took Peter, James, and John off by themselves with him and led them up a high mountain.
He was transfigured before their eyes, and his clothes became dazzling white, whiter
than the work of any bleacher could make them.
Elijah appeared to them along with Moses.
The two were in conversation with Jesus.
Then Peter spoke to Jesus,
Rabbi, how good it is for us to be here.
Let us erect three booths on this site, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.
He hardly knew what to say, for they were all overcome with awe.
A cloud came and overshadowed them, and out of the cloud a voice,
This is my son, my beloved, listen to him.
Suddenly looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them, only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he strictly enjoined them not to tell anyone
what they had seen before the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
They kept this word of his to themselves,
though they continued to discuss what to rise from the dead meant.
My sisters and brothers, the gospel of the Lord.
Praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you didn't catch my name at the introduction, it's Father John Powell.
And I'm a Camaldolese Benedictine monk from New Camaldolese Hermitage in Big Sur, California.
And maybe some of you are not aware that we've been gradually establishing a bond of friendship
between our hermitage and this parish community.
So I think it was Advent of 95, I was here for several days giving some Advent talks.
And then the following Lent of 96, Father Daniel came and gave the parish mission here.
And then last Advent you had our triple whammy, Father Arthur, Father Daniel and Brother Cyprian
who gave a concert here and a book and gift fair show and talks on Advent.
And so now I'm back and following them.
And it's wonderful this bond of friendship we're establishing between our community and your community.
And I wanted to begin by reading a letter from our superior, Father Robert Hale,
addressed to all the parishioners.
Dear friends of St. Philip's Parish,
it is with joy and deep gratitude that we here at the hermitage
thank God for the bond of friendship between our two communities.
It is our hope that this bond will continue to grow and strengthen
as we support one another along the Christian journey.
We are in a special way united with you in prayer as you begin your parish Lenten renewal.
We send to you as our representative, Father John Powell, that's me,
and pray that he may be God's instrument of grace for you at this time,
both as individuals and as a parish community.
Know that we stand with him in your presence,
seeking God's choicest blessings for you,
as together we journey with joy and longing towards Easter.
Yours in Christ, Robert Hale.
To me, this letter is important,
and I want to convey to St. Philip's Parish the sense that I'm not just coming as the lone ranger
or some kind of wild maverick who's going to waltz in and out of your lives here,
but I represent an entire community of 27 monks,
and they're going to be on their knees every moment that I'm here.
They're going to be praying for us and for the grace that you need to receive
and that I need to receive in these next four or five days that the Lord is offering to us.
And for me, that's a great source of encouragement and strength to know that I'm not alone in this,
that a whole community is behind me and supporting with prayer.
And prayer is that mysterious kind of force, isn't it?
We don't quite know how it works, but it does sort of change people, and it changes situations.
And so I really believe that the prayer of the monks, that each one of them promised me they would do for us,
is somehow going to impact this community in these next days.
Do you know what a parish mission is?
Well, if you participated last year or any previous years, you might have some idea.
I wanted to just say a few words from my own point of view.
What is a parish mission?
Well, it's sort of like a parish retreat.
Not everybody has the opportunity or the luxury to go away.
Most times people go away on a retreat.
They leave the familiar and go to some quiet, remote place like our place at Big Sur.
But since most people or many people can't avail themselves of that opportunity,
what a mission is is like a retreat that comes to you, comes to the parish community.
And that means you have to sort of enter into the dynamics of the retreat,
and probably it's more of a challenge since you're not withdrawing from your ordinary schedules and routines.
And how do you do something different to accentuate and to clearly mark out these days as parish mission for all of you?
And one of the ways, of course, is by coming to each of the talks, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
But even more than that, I don't think that's enough to really enter the spirit of a parish mission.
On your own time, you've got to be doing something,
even if it's taking a word or a thought or a phrase or a story that I might tell in my talks
and continuing to reflect on it and to chew on it and to pray about it.
Maybe going to a scripture text that I might have referred to in the talk
and going back and praying about it, especially our gospel text,
which is going to be the theme for the week, the Transfiguration Story.
It might mean spending a little bit more quiet time in these next days.
And I'm going to be giving little assignments at the end of my talks, just little suggestions,
and maybe by following up, trying to follow those in these days,
might help you to enter into the spirit of the parish mission.
So it's like a time of retreat. It's a time of soul-searching,
a time when we perhaps examine our lives and where are we at in terms of our own Christian journey.
Where have we failed and where have we succeeded?
What are our strengths and weaknesses?
And to deepen our commitment to the Christian way of life, deepen our commitment to Christ.
One of the monks said, well, are you going to preach fire and brimstone?
And in the old, old days, long before you and I, the parish mission tended to be that.
Every parish in Lent had a parish mission.
And they would always have a missionary or some priest from some order dressed in strange garb, usually black.
I wore white, so I'm not as threatening, right?
I remember when I was a kid, the missionaries would come and they'd have a big mission cross stuck in their belt,
and it looked like a six-shooter. And it made me kind of fearful.
You know, what is he going to do with that thing?
And a lot of times, not in every case, the preaching style, the fire and brimstone,
in some ways was designed to rouse guilt in people.
I know one of the signs they used to look for for a successful mission is how long the lines were at the confessionals.
Well, I suppose if you make people feel guilty enough, then they feel they have to go assuage their guilt,
be purified of their guilt, and go to confession.
Well, that's not the approach this day and age.
And certainly, we invite people to receive the sacrament of reconciliation,
but it's not to try to get them or force them through guilt.
If anything, the central message of the gospel is love.
So that should be the fire and brimstone preached.
And we have such a hard time, don't we, each one of us accepting, receiving that central message
that we are thoroughly and unconditionally loved now and for all eternity.
And we need to keep hearing it, don't we, over and over and over again.
So that's going to be a big part of what my talks are about.
The theme that I've chosen for the week is kind of a catchy title, I thought anyway.
It's called Bound for Glory.
Do you remember the story of Elmer Gantry?
I think that was the title of the film, Bound for Glory.
Well, that's about as close as the connection is.
It's just the titles.
That theme comes right out of the gospel, if you were listening to the gospel.
And the account we have today is the gospel of Mark.
So it's his version of the transfiguration story.
And central to that story is, of course, Jesus.
Your eyes, as you're listening to the story, are meant to be drawn towards Jesus
as he leads the disciples up this high mountain.
And, of course, central to that is what happens to him.
Something magnificent happens.
He's transfigured.
He's transformed into a dazzling light, or a biblical word for that would be glory.
And that's the focal point of my reflection this week.
To me, that's the center of the story.
This glory that transfigures Jesus.
But I'd go even further than that.
I think that's central to Mark's gospel.
What is this glory that transfigures Jesus?
And I would go even further and say that's central to all four gospels.
That's central to the New Testament.
And we could even say it's central to the whole Bible.
What is this glory?
And it's important we know what that glory is.
And that we ponder what that glory is.
And that we chew on that message of glory.
When you hear the word glory, what do you usually think about?
What picture comes into your imagination, into your mind?
Every one of us, I think, has some idea of what glory is.
But we think we know what glory is.
Perhaps we think of Olympic glory.
In fact, that word is often associated with the Olympics, isn't it?
In advertising and the coverage that we see on television.
We think of all the sacrifice, the many years of self-sacrifice
and grueling training of these athletes.
And finally, their moment of glory.
After many minor competitions, they reach the Olympics
and they struggle through the competition.
And maybe they win the gold.
And they're standing on that platform in the middle
and the gold medal around their neck.
And their national anthem is played and their flag rises to the ceiling of the auditorium.
Maybe that's what you and I think of when we think of glory.
Or maybe we think of wealth and riches.
Maybe that's what we think of when we think of glory.
Do you remember the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Di?
It was very glorious, wasn't it?
And glittering with diamonds and jewels and fantastic.
Maybe that's what we think of when we think of glory.
Of course, so much for that glory.
Or do you remember the movie Glory?
And what that movie put forth as glory is what?
Courage and self-sacrifice and heroism in the face of battle and death as a kind of glory.
Maybe we think of that when we think of glory.
Or maybe we think of some of the greatest cathedrals in the world.
And they were actually built to, what?
Give a sense of awe and glory to the people who went inside of them
or looked at them from a distance.
Places like, what? Notre Dame in France.
Or also in Paris, the Saint-Chapelle and the beautiful stained glass windows.
Or maybe Saint Peter's, so huge it dwarfs the human person.
And you think of this marvelous glory.
Maybe we think of that.
Or maybe we think of nature when we think of glory.
Like a glorious sunrise or a glorious sunset.
Or maybe one of those rare double rainbows that you sometimes see in your life.
What I'm suggesting as we begin this mission and this exploration of glory
is before we even begin to scratch the surface of what is Jesus' glory,
we first have to look at what are our own experiences,
our own notions of glory, our own prejudices, what we think glory is.
And what is the gospel telling us glory is?
Because obviously there's glory and there's glory.
Not everything that we might think or perceive to be glory is true glory.
This past summer and early fall I was in Italy attending some meetings of our order
and I was there seven weeks and also a good long stay.
The meetings were three weeks.
That left me time to visit all our monasteries and hermitages throughout Italy
and to see some of the wonderful sites in Italy,
to go to Florence and of course Rome and Naples and Pompeii.
And I saw many glorious things.
Even the ancient buildings were glorious
and you could only imagine what they were like fully restored in their heyday.
And probably the greatest building of course was St. Peter's.
It's so magnificent.
And the artwork as well as the Sistine Chapel.
And I saw the glorious work of which is now fully restored of Michelangelo.
Glorious.
And then I got to go to Assisi and I saw the wonderful basilica there
and all the Giotto paintings which are glorious along the upper church
and then more in the vaulted lower church
and then finally I went down below that to the tomb of St. Francis
which was very powerful and in its own way a kind of glory emanated from there.
I spent time there praying.
Then finally I took the bus from the old city which is on the hillside
down to the valley where you have the new city of Assisi.
There's also a cathedral there as well that I was going to visit.
And you take a bus. I was on a ten-minute bus ride.
And the bus stops at various points
and it stopped and this little old Italian lady got on the bus
and she happened to sit right beside me.
And we're driving along and of course I'm contemplating all these wonderful sights,
glorious things that I've seen.
And she sneezes.
Now I know basic Italian.
I knew enough to know what do you say when an elderly Italian woman sneezes.
So I looked to her and I said, Salute.
And she turned toward me with a magnificent expression on her face
and this light in her eyes and said, Grazie.
Grazie.
And there was something about the meeting of her eyes
that was more glorious than everything I had seen in Italy.
And afterwards journaling about it, I couldn't understand why.
Why was I so moved and struck by that encounter?
Why did that seem more real and more genuine and more spirit-filled
than all those other beautiful, glorious buildings?
And why did that last?
Why was that a lasting memory for me more than anything else?
So there's glory and there's glory.
It reminded me, my encounter with her, of my first encounter with Mother Teresa
back in the early 70s.
I was studying theology in Washington, D.C.
And she was at the National Shrine, the National Cathedral
of the Immaculate Conception, a glorious building in itself.
And she was dwarfed, this little old woman.
She was in her 60s then and kind of bent over.
And the sacristy is where she was escorted to in order to greet people
who wanted to meet her.
The sacristy was larger than this church, to give you some idea
of how big this place is.
So there's this little figure there, and I knew the sacristy,
so I was third in line to meet her.
And taking her hand and seeing her wrinkled face,
even then it was very wrinkled, but the light in her eyes
and the radiance of her face was exactly the same thing that I saw
in the face and the eyes of that Italian woman.
There was a kind of glory about her that was encased in a very old
yet an ordinary human being.
What is this glory that the disciples witness on the Mount of Transfiguration?
What is this glory that takes hold of Jesus and transfigures him?
What was this glory that I saw in that Italian, elderly Italian woman
or in Mother Teresa?
And have you ever had any glimpses of true glory?
And do we know the difference between true glory and false glory?
Think for a minute.
Can you remember any glimpses of true glory in your life?
That's my first assignment to you on the parish mission,
to spend some time thinking about what is true glory,
and have I ever had a glimpse of it?
Remember, in the story today, the disciples get a glimpse.
That's usually what we get is just glimpses.
It's very important to pay attention to those glimpses
because they're trying to reveal to us a truth, a deep truth.
And Jesus' glory is important for us because you and I are bound for that same glory.
We are made for that same glory,
but not for the false kind of glory that we so often get caught up in.
So what is this true glory that we are bound for, this glory of Jesus?
Have I had any glimpses of it that might be clues,
that might give me insight and direction for my life?
It seems to me that true glory changes and transforms us in some way.
It's not just kind of outer jewels or outer clothing or outer success
that we might wear kind of in a superficial exterior way.
There's an inner quality to true glory as well as an outer manifestation.
And there's a power to change and transform us in some way.
Even in Jesus, we saw that glory changes Him and transforms Him
and makes Him what? White.
Some translations say translucent, which means what? Clear.
Totally clear and not murky, not cloudy, not divided, but clear.
Clear and simple and true with integrity.
There's something lasting about glory.
Even though in this life we get only brief glimpses,
there's something lasting about it.
So as you think about this until tomorrow,
in the next talk where we'll explore this more deeply,
ponder, have you had any glimpses of this true kind of glory?
The title of the talks this week,
the first one tomorrow is going to be more on this first theme
that I'm introducing now, Bound for Glory,
and we're going to scratch beneath the surface
and try to see what is this glory that transfigures Jesus.
The second Tuesday will be The Road to Glory.
What was Jesus' road to glory?
What is our road to glory?
The third will be Obstacles Along the Road to Glory.
What do we keep tripping over on the road to glory?
And the last will be Awakening to Glory.
How do I awaken to this glory that is mine in Jesus Christ?
Another way of putting that is listening to Jesus.
That's how I do it.
And if you remember in the story, after the cloud departs,
there's only Jesus that the disciples see,
and the voice tells them,
this is my beloved son, listen to him.
So listening to Jesus seems to be very important
in terms of our journey to glory.
So I hope you'll join me at the end of Mass.
Monsignor will give you the times,
and I think it's listed in the bulletins.
So do all you can to join me.
I think it's a powerful message that we have to explore,
a very positive message,
and central to the gospel and the Christian life.
God bless you.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John off by themselves with him
and led them up a high mountain.
He was transfigured before their eyes,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
whiter than the work of any bleacher could make them.
Elijah appeared to them along with Moses.
The two were in conversation with Jesus.
Then Peter spoke to Jesus,
Rabbi, how good it is for us to be here.
Let us erect three booths on this site,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.
He hardly knew what to say,
for they were all overcome with awe.
The cloud came overshadowing them,
and out of the cloud a voice,
this is my son, my beloved, listen to him.
Suddenly looking around,
they no longer saw anyone with them, only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain,
he strictly enjoined them not to tell anyone
what they had seen before the Son of Man
had risen from the dead.
So they kept this word of his to themselves,
though they continued to discuss
what to rise from the dead meant.
My sisters and brothers, the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Well, as Monsignor said in the introductions
at the beginning of our liturgy,
my name is Father John Powell,
and I'm a Commaldolese Benedictine monk
from the Hermitage, New Commaldolese Hermitage
in Big Sur, California,
that beautiful place along the rugged coast there.
And some of you may know that we've been building up
a kind of bond of friendship between the monks
that we've been working with,
the monks there, and this parish community.
And we're, at the Hermitage, we're really happy for this.
I think it began in Advent of 95.
I came and gave a series of talks
in the mornings and evenings on an Advent theme.
And then the following Lent of 96,
Father Daniel came and gave your parish mission.
And then last December, Advent of 96,
the triple whammy, Father Daniel, Father Arthur,
and Brother Cyprian, who gave his concert here
with all of our books and gifts,
came to share an event called Advent Awakenings.
So now I'm back again.
And we continue to build this bond of friendship.
And to share with you, or to show you
how much that means to us, I want to read a letter
that our superior, Father Robert Hale,
has written as we now kick off our parish mission.
Dear friends of St. Philip's Parish,
it is with joy and deep gratitude
that we here at the Hermitage thank God
for the bond of friendship between our two communities.
It is our hope that this bond will continue to grow
and strengthen as we support one another
along the Christian journey.
We are in a special way united with you in prayer
as you begin your parish Lenten renewal mission.
We send to you as our representative Father John Powell,
that's me, and pray that he may be
God's instrument of grace for you at this time,
both as individuals and as a parish community.
We know that we stand with him,
know that we stand with him in your presence,
seeking God's choiceless blessings for you
as together we journey with joy and longing towards Easter.
Yours in Christ, Robert Hale.
For me, this letter is important as we begin the parish mission
because for a variety of reasons.
One, it helps me to have perhaps some confidence or some courage
knowing that I'm not standing here alone
as some lone ranger coming before you,
but I'm coming from a community of prayer.
Monks, primarily, our life is a life of prayer,
and so that prayer is behind me.
And so there's 27 monks, plus myself,
that are really praying for these next four days or so with you
that whatever God's grace is that's meant to come into your life
as individuals and as a parish community,
that you might be receptive, you might be open to whatever that grace is.
And, you know, we never know what God's grace is for us,
so we have to just have that openness towards God's surprise.
So there's a whole community praying all week.
They've all promised me that they're going to be praying for us,
and so we should take heart and take courage in that.
Also, it's important because it shows this connection you have
with the monks there and this friendship that's building between us.
It's not too often that monasteries have this kind of relationship with a parish,
so we think it's kind of special, and we hope you do as well,
and we hope it continues to grow.
So what is a parish mission?
Some of you may know what that is
because maybe you participated last year or years previous to this.
There was a time when every parish, every Lent, always had a parish mission.
In the olden times, usually that was a time
the style tended to be the fire and brimstone style.
In fact, one of the monks said,
are you going to preach fire and brimstone at them?
And basically what it tended to do was arouse a lot of guilt in people
because the measure of a good mission was how long the lines were at the confessional.
And the preacher wasn't doing his job if there wasn't a long line.
That was sort of a litmus test of a good mission.
And not that certainly I hope these days
if you feel led to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, great, that's wonderful.
Our life is always about reconciliation.
But I don't think using guilt as a motive
is necessarily the most positive or helpful thing.
I would rather use love as a motive.
And, you know, I think the message of love is central to the Gospel,
not the message of guilt.
And we all struggle all the time to receive ever more deeply that message of love
because it's very incredible, isn't it?
It's hard to believe that I am loved,
that you are loved 100% unconditionally now and for all eternity
by a love we hardly understand.
This divine love that's been given to us as we heard in the second reading
through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
So I'm not going to be using fire and brimstone.
I'm not going to be churning away at the guilt in you.
I'm going to be speaking about love.
That's going to be central to my message.
A mission is somehow like a parish retreat, you know.
Not everybody has the opportunity or the luxury to go away to a retreat house,
a place like Big Sur, for example.
And so a retreat comes to a parish,
so that way more people can be a part of it.
That's what a parish mission is.
It is a time for soul searching.
It's a time of perhaps renewing and deepening our Christian commitment,
our commitment to Christ,
maybe asking some fundamental questions about our life.
Where are we at, where have we been, and where are we going as a Christian?
What's on center and what's off center?
So that's part of a parish mission.
It's a time of entering more intensely into the journey of Lent,
which we're all on as we prepare for Easter.
Maybe a time for refocusing our lives.
But whatever you want to call it,
it's a time where we shouldn't be going on things as normal, things as usual.
And so one of the ways we try to earmark this time as a special time for the parish
is we bring in a handsome young priest,
and we have him speak at all the masses like a marathon,
and then he gives these series of talks.
They'll be in the mornings and in the evenings,
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
But that's not enough from my point of view.
I would hope that all of you will do something in addition to that
to enter into the spirit of the mission.
I'll be giving little assignments at the end of my reflections each day
as little homework assignments,
things that maybe you can continue to do or to work on
in between the different presentations
as we explore this theme that I've chosen.
They might be things for you to take from my talks,
maybe a phrase or a word or an idea or a story I've told,
and to continue reflecting on it, chewing on it.
If you keep a journal, maybe you'll write it in your journal.
I'll be asking some reflection questions at times in my talks
for you to take home with you.
Maybe you'll look up a Scripture passage that I'll refer to in my talks
or the Gospel of today, which is really the main theme throughout the week.
You'll go back and spend some time.
Maybe you'll do a little bit more prayer this week.
Whatever it is, try to really enter into the spirit of the parish mission
and really earmark these next five days,
set them aside as a special intense time
to enter into whatever this grace God is offering this parish.
The theme I've chosen, I think, is a catchy title,
Bound for Glory.
You may remember the movie on Elmer Gantry was called Bound for Glory.
Well, that's the only similarity.
I'm not going to be doing anything or talking about Elmer Gantry.
Bound for Glory comes right out of our Gospel message today,
the transfiguration according to Mark.
And we know, as we heard that text preached,
we read to us, we know that central to the story is Jesus, isn't it?
That's kind of, as you're listening, the focal point is on Jesus
and what happens to him on that mountain.
He gets enveloped, transformed, transfigured by this brilliant light.
That the Bible would call glory.
Well, my question to you is, what is this glory?
What is the glory that took hold of Jesus and transfigured him
and transformed him?
What is that glory?
I think it's important that we ask that question,
that we search the scriptures, search our hearts,
search our own experience to know in a deeper way what is that glory
because we, you and I, are bound for the same glory.
You and I are headed toward that same glory.
You and I are made for that same glory.
So we should know what that glory is.
But, you know, we have many notions of what we think glory is.
And we have to really try to understand what's true glory
and what's false glory.
For example, when you hear the word glory, what do you think about?
What image comes to your mind, in your imagination?
Everyone thinks they know what glory is.
Perhaps when you hear the word glory, you think of, what, the Olympics.
Olympic glory.
In fact, as it's broadcast, covered over television,
we often hear the word glory associated with the Olympics.
And we think of the athletes who sacrificed and struggled for many, many years
and finally minor competitions and a major competition
and then the Olympic competition and then the final moment
when maybe they win the gold medal and they're standing on the center pedestal
and the gold is around their neck, the medal and their national anthem
of their country is played and the flag is being raised up in the auditorium.
Maybe that's what we think of when we hear the word glory.
Or maybe, do you remember the movie Glory about the Civil War?
And that presented glory as what?
Courage, self-sacrifice, heroism in the face of death in battle.
Maybe that's a kind of glory we think about when we hear the word glory.
Or maybe we think about the great cathedrals in the world,
especially in Europe, these fantastic giant structures of art and architecture
and that are simply glorious with these wonderful stained glass windows.
I remember 14 years ago being in France and in Paris and seeing Notre Dame,
you know, glorious and the Saint-Chapelle which has the most famous stained glass windows
and if you're there when the light's streaming through,
it's just you think you're in heaven, it's just glorious.
And recently I was in Italy and saw Saint Peter's, glorious.
So maybe we think of these kinds of things when we think of glory.
Or maybe we think of wealth and riches when we think of the word glory.
Do you remember the, some of you may have seen on TV,
the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Di, you know?
Really glorious, right? All the stops were pulled out,
we see all that glittering coach that they came in,
you know, and Westminster Abbey, it's just glorious.
Of course, so much for that glory.
We know how that glory turned out.
Or maybe we think of nature when we think of glory.
I think that's true for a lot of us.
Maybe we think of that glorious sunset that we tried to capture with our camera.
Or that glorious sunrise.
Or maybe one of those rare double rainbows that you see maybe once in your life.
Maybe when we hear the word glory we think of that.
But it seems to me there's glory and there's glory.
Not all that we would think or perceive or even experience as glory is true glory.
The gospel story of the transfiguration is about a glory that the three disciples witnessed,
transfiguring Jesus, and it's like no other glory they had ever experienced before.
And that's why the story found its way in the gospels,
because it was so different and so outstanding.
And so there's glory and there's glory.
Maybe we could say there's true glory and there can be a false glory or a temporary glory.
And we have to know the difference as we're trying to understand
what is this glory of Jesus in the transfiguration story
that's my glory.
You know, when I was in Italy this fall I visited many glorious places.
I was there seven weeks.
You know, most people on a tour spend ten days.
I was there attending meetings of our order, but that only took three weeks.
So the rest of the time I was visiting all our monasteries,
and usually monasteries and hermitages in Europe are in beautiful places,
so there was a lot of glory in nature that I saw.
And then, of course, I managed to squeeze in Florence and Rome and Naples
and, you know, all those wonderful places and saw glorious things.
Even the ancient Roman Forum and the Colosseum,
even though they're old and only partially there,
you can still see a glory in them and imagine what they were like when they were new.
And, of course, St. Peter's and the Sistine Chapel.
I saw the fully restored Michelangelo painting in the Sistine Chapel.
Marvelous, glorious.
And I finally got to get to Assisi, kind of a glorious place associated with St. Francis.
And there's a beautiful basilica there, and you go into the top level of the church,
and there's these famous Giotto paintings, murals on the wall.
Glorious, still vibrant with a lot of color, though they are old.
And then you go down to the next level of the church,
and there are more frescoes on the walls and ceilings,
and then finally down to the tomb of Francis.
And in its own simple way, this huge rock which contains the remains of Francis,
there was a kind of glory there too.
But something strange happened to me.
I got on the bus, and the old city of Assisi was taking the bus down to the valley below.
And that's where the new city of Assisi is.
There's also a large basilica there.
And I was going down on a ten-minute bus ride,
and the bus stops at various points along the way.
And it stopped at this one point, and an elderly Italian woman got on the bus,
and she happened to sit right beside me.
I always got a little bit nervous when these things happened,
because my Italian is basic, maybe sub-basic.
And I'm afraid they're going to talk to me, you know,
because I can throw a few little greetings out, you know.
So I said, oh, I hope she doesn't engage me in the conversation,
because I'll just be saying, see, see, see.
But anyway, she was sitting there, and then she sneezed.
I said, I know what to say there, yeah, yeah.
So I said, salute.
And she turned, shifted in her seat toward me,
and with this most radiant face and smile and this twinkle in her eyes,
she said, salute.
Now maybe she was looking that way because she said,
I know you're a darn American, you can't fool me with your salute.
But there was something about her face and the light in her eyes
that has remained with me and is more powerful in my memory
than all the glorious places I saw in Italy.
And I'm amazed at that. Why?
And I've kept asking myself, why was the glory in her face
and in her eyes greater than these fantastic human-made churches?
It reminded me of the time I had met Mother Teresa
at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., in 74.
She was there to receive an award.
And that's a huge place, too, if you've ever been there,
and a fantastic, glorious building.
And she's kind of dwarfed this little nun.
She was in her 60s at that time.
And then they brought her to the sacristy
for those who wanted to greet her.
The sacristy was larger than this church,
to give you some idea of this huge place.
And there's this little woman, and even then,
she was young, only in her 60s,
but she was already bent over and looked very weathered,
had a very weathered, creased-lined face.
And I went up to her and took her hands,
and again I saw the Italian woman.
It was that glow and that light in her eyes.
It was the same phenomenon I had seen in that Italian woman in Italy.
There is glory, and there is glory.
What is true glory, and what is false glory?
Like the disciples, each one of us,
all the time we are getting glimpses of true glory.
This true glory that's trying to break through into our lives
or into our consciousness, into our awareness,
so that we might awaken to what is true glory,
which is the glory of the transfiguration,
which is your glory and my glory.
So my first question to you in my assignment till tomorrow
is, what is true glory?
For you to think about that.
And have you had any glimpses of true glory in your life?
Would you even know if you did?
Would you know the difference to know what true glory is?
Let me give you a few hints.
I think true glory transforms us in some way,
changes us in some way.
And so true glory, like Jesus in the story, has a depth to it.
It's not like just something glittery on the surface,
and you know, you remain the same.
True glory somehow hits us, affects us, changes us.
I think also another hint would be
true glory has an inner dimension and an outer dimension.
An outer manifestation, but an inner reality.
And that's why it can change us,
because it can touch and hit at something internal to us,
something deep in our hearts.
I think also true glory is something lasting,
even though we just get glimpses of it.
There's a lasting truth or a lasting quality,
while false glory is passing.
You know, glory for the Semitic people, the Hebrew people,
the word glory, doxa in Greek, has a sense of weight.
And I was always puzzled by that.
Why would you think of something heavy, weighty, as glory?
Well, for them, what's real is weighty, right?
It's solid.
True glory is heavy, is weighty, is solid.
False glory has no weight.
It has no reality.
It's illusion.
And there's a line in one of the psalms where the psalmist is,
as you know, the psalms are songs, and the psalmist says,
if you were to place in the scales the glory of God
and the glory of human beings, wealth and power,
the scale with human wealth and power,
it would weigh less than a breath, the writer says.
While God's glory, the glory of the transfiguration,
the glory that's meant for you and me is weighty glory.
It's heavy glory.
It's real glory.
It's substantial glory.
So, what is real glory, your assignment?
Have you had any glimpses of true glory in your life?
Think of them.
Write them down.
What insight have they given to you that might help you
to understand the transfiguration story a little bit better
and a little bit deeper,
and maybe to understand your own destiny,
because you and I are made for this glory
that takes hold of Jesus and transfigures him.
We are destined for that same glory.
So, this coming week,
I've broken down our reflection for each day
into kind of four different themes.
So, tomorrow, bound for glory.
So, we're going to be looking more deeply.
What is this glory?
See if the scripture gives us any hints
that Jesus is experiencing,
and why is that important for me.
The second day will be the road to glory.
How do you get there?
How do you get to this glory?
How do you arrive at this glory?
How do you possess this glory?
What's the road Jesus takes that's our road?
The third night would be obstacles along the way.
What do we keep tripping over all the time
in our journey to glory?
And the fourth one, the last day,
will be awakening to glory.
How?
Well, the story tells us.
The voice says,
This is my beloved son.
Listen to him.
So, awakening to glory is listening to Jesus,
and he will awaken this glory in us.
So, I hope you'll join us.
I hope you'll join me.
If you don't, watch out.
God will get you.
Fire and brimstone, I thought I'd throw in.
God bless you all.