The Jesuit Tertians – those who are undergoing the final stage of intensive spiritual formation prior to being approved for final vows – began their 30-day retreat at Sevenhill, SA, a few days ago. Their journey is like slowly climbing a high mountain in the company of Jesus, each other and their retreat directors. They do not climb alone; they trust in the gifts they will receive along the way.
In the gospel reading for last Sunday we heard the story of the Transfiguration, in which Jesus led three of his closest friends up a high mountain, and was ‘transfigured’ before them. There they came to see something of the divine life of Jesus. It was a deeply life-changing, transforming experience.
As they came down the mountain, Jesus told them not to tell others ‘until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead’. They began to wonder what ‘rising from the dead could mean’. It’s hard to talk of ‘rising from the dead’ when one has just tasted the glory of God.
But what of those whose journey is not one of glory, but one of the Cross — when life is caught in violence, fear, abandonment and death? How do they taste hope of new life? What might ‘rising from the dead’ mean to them?
It is hard not to think of the children of Douglas High School in Florida trying to make meaning of the violent deaths that surrounded them last week. Or of those trying to survive the relentless bombing and killing in eastern Ghouta in Syria. Or the thousands of Rohingya refugees seeking a new life in Bangladesh.
This is something our journey this Lent invites us to consider. We cannot and should not avoid facing those places where hope is threatened, where violence begets more violence and where the human spirit can easily despair.
The journey of the Cross remains a reality for many in our world. Can we link our hearts and minds with those who live in situations where ‘rising from the dead’ presently seems implausible, even impossible, and far from the glory of God?
Where is our expression of hope, where we do not allow guns, violence and death to have the final say? Can we, in our lives and actions, reveal the sin of violence and the hope of peace? Can we reach out to those in fear at this time?
Can we journey with them, in some way, sharing hope, however fragile, that we believe in him who was transfigured and promised he would rise from the dead?
Fr Brian F. McCoy SJ, Provincial