Monday, February 28, 2011
“Go to the Light.”
The story of the transfiguration is found in three of the four gospels. We read it every year, and every year the three disciples who witness the moment tremble and stare. Each year Peter volunteers to make the glory permanent, to keep it high up on the mountain, as it were, by building three booths or tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, even though he is so overcome with fear, he doesn't know what he is saying. Where is our mountain top? Were do we see the transfiguration of Christ light in our darkness of pain, suffering, confusion, and despair?
Sometime ago I heard an interview with an amazing man-a man who makes me believe that what this text says about what is real and what is not is true and that what is real is the power we have for love and reconciliation and healing. His name is Father Greg Boyle, and he works with gangs in the neighborhoods of Los Angeles. He has worked there for well over twenty years. In his work he has seen things that might make anyone give up hope. He has buried many teenagers who were victims of gang warfare. He has watched mothers bury not one but all their sons. He has sat by beds of shooting victims and beating victims in hospitals, some of whom never recover. He says mass in 25 jails, but he has also started a business that employs ex-gang members, since kids coming out of prison who are tattooed from head-to-toe are not exactly what employers have in mind when looking for people to man their counter or their cash register. So he started a silk-screen t-shirt factory, and he employs kids there. In the factory, kids from rival gangs work side-by-side. "Usually," says Father Boyle, "when a kid begins and is told there will be former members of rival gangs at work beside him, the kid will say, 'Well, I just won't talk to them.' But after a time and a short time at that, they do begin to talk, and they get to know each other. And the old label of enemy or rival gives way to the name co-worker and sometimes friend." The interviewer asked Boyle if he had met kids who he knew would be hopeless to try and help, and he said every time he thought he'd met a kid he could never reach, they, too, turned out to be people who wanted regular lives and homes and families and freedom from what they had known in gangs. She asked him if he talked about the gospel with these kids. "Not really," he answered. "It's more important," he said, "to live as if the truth were true, to go where love has not yet arrived, choose to stand with the folks that God chooses to stand with." Then he told the story of the desert monks centuries ago who, whenever they were greatly distressed or despondent, would repeat just one word over and over and over. "A mantra," he said, "that keeps you facing the person who's facing you; it keeps you present to God revealed magnificently in front of you. The word wasn't Jesus," said Boyle. “It wasn't love. The word was today." No matter how dark it gets, God can transform us if we live as if the truth were true, go where love has not yet arrived, and stand with folks that God chooses to stand with today.
See ya in church but until then take care of yourself and one another.
Dance in the light,