Today, with the help of Saint Augustine, we invite you to explore God’s call to awaken and find God’s transfiguring power in ourselves; engage Catholic social teaching in Gustavo Gutiérrez’s message of solidarity with the poor and marginalized; and embody these teachings as we interrogate our own hearts and minds, and consider the author’s own art, “Black Boys Enjoy Tea.”
YHWH said to Abram,
“Leave your country, your people and the home of your parents
and go to a place I will show you.
“I will make you a great people,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and it will be used to bless others.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who curse you.
All the families of the earth
will be blessed in you.”
Sarai and Abram went as YHWH directed, and Lot went with them.
Abram was seventy-five years old when they left Haran.
Response: The Creator loves justice and right.
For the word of the Creator is faithful, / and all God’s works are to be trusted.
The Creator loves justice and right / and fills the earth with love.
R: The Creator loves justice and right.
The Creator looks on those who stand in reverence,
On those who hope in God’s love,
To rescue their souls from death, / to keep them alive in famine.
R: The Creator loves justice and right.
Our soul is waiting for God, / our help and our shield.
In the Creator our hearts find joy. / We trust in God’s holy Name.
May Your love be upon us, O God, / as we place all our hope in You.
R. The Creator loves justice and right.
So do not be ashamed to give your testimony about Christ,
and do not be ashamed of me, Christ’s prisoner.
But join with me in suffering for the Gospel,
by the power of God, who has saved us
and called us to a holy life
— not because of anything we have done,
but because of God’s own purpose and grace.
This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ,
who has destroyed death,
and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.
Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James and John
up on a high mountain to be alone with them.
And before their eyes, Jesus was transfigured
— his face becoming as dazzling as the sun
and his clothes as radiant as light.
Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said, “Rabbi, how good that we are here!
With your permission I will erect three shelters here
— one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah!”
Peter was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them.
Out of the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my Own, my Beloved, on whom my favor rests.
Listen to him!”
When they heard this, the disciples fell forward on the ground,
overcome with fear.
Jesus came toward them and touched them, saying,
“Get up! Do not be afraid.”
When they looked up, they did not see anyone but Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountainside,
Jesus commanded them,
“Do not tell anyone about this until the Chosen One has risen from the dead.”
The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved.
The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.
In the book The Confessions St. Augustine, Augustine writes to God, “Thou awakest us to delight in Thy praise; for Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee…” In all readings, God asks for Their followers to trust and take a risk, in order for the people to be amazed at the Lord’s wonderment. The Lord is asking us to let go of our earthly thoughts and to trust in Them in the journey for a new nation. Augustine’s word is a prime example of transfiguration, not only because it is a call for us to trust in the Lord, but also to trust in ourselves – to follow through to the message obtained in our hearts, and be transfigured within ourselves.
What Augustine has done is admit his imperfection, while showing a willingness to change, no matter how long it will take. Being restless comes in many shapes and forms, and our body often rushes into action without thinking of whether or not it is what the Lord commands. Earthly thinking is what allows complicity to seep into the spaces of our lives, and causes the world that the Lord created to be unjust. After all, what is the aftermath of an impulsive action, but often the harm put onto the Lord’s other children? For example, how many times when we see injustice in the world do we go through the same cycle? We feel a rush of emotions, we congregate with folks nearby, and do temporary, individual actions to make ourselves feel better. We express no joy, affirm our mistrust in others, and then go back to the way things were until the next injustice hits. Components of this come from fear: we are afraid of who we will become, and what our lives will look like outside of what makes us comfortable now, especially if we gain the power needed for structural and lifestyle changes to take place.
Wanting to go back into a state of comfort is only natural, but if we want to leave ourselves in a better state, we must leave the land of our kinsfolk, our comfort zones – we need to leave behind what we know, or what we think we know. If we do not, then we are not following the Lord’s intent for us. Augustine himself writes about this need to allow change: “I contend not in judgment with Thee, who art the truth; I fear to deceive myself; lest mine iniquity lie unto itself.” When asking for a better world, and fighting against the “isms” and the phobias – or just to be a better person, not resigned to complicity – there is no reality in which yourself and the world must be perfect. However, it is in working toward the goal of seeing the promised nation, or the person you want to be, that we are to be aiming for.
A part of this work of finding God’s voice in ourselves, or transfiguration, is the art of elevating ourselves. That learning is hard, but we should trust that we can do it. Remember that the struggles for liberation are more freeing than remaining in the oppressive state that has fallen around us. Augustine’s Confessions holds truth, and aligns, along with the readings, with a call not to fall into our current state of being so fearful of our necessary actions that we remain inactive. To think, we spend so much time not realizing that the current pain we feel is worthy of sharing, to help others share their own pain. Or how, through this honesty, we can spread and remove the internalized “isms” and phobias from our bodies. This sharing is important because, to fail to share our faults, we may make others believe that we are without fault. Holding a disparaging heart is one of the greatest injustices we can do to others.
What is transfiguration without the awakening to it, and what comes in between awakening and transfiguration? In liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez’s article, A Hermeneutic of Hope, he ponders the praxis, or belief put into action, of those who think they believe in liberation theology.
Gutiérrez considers this question in terms of poverty, and those who do not see its causation, but this practice can expand to all of the “isms” and supremacies that we must deal with in our day-to-day lives. We must restrain our sympathy in order to show true solidarity with others experiencing oppression. Too often, when we use the word “solidarity,” it is only with superficiality, not accepting the struggles of following and receiving the message of what solidarity means, for our own comfort.
Instead of being in solidarity, we often remain sympathetic with how easy it is for society to remain complicit with the practices that cause harm to all – and how hard it is to change. Moreover, we live in a world that does not allow us to explore the complexity of the issues we deal with. It is solidarity, not simple sympathy, that allows us to explore the complexity within the issues we are trying to fight against. This solidarity will require us to examine the conditioning of our own minds; having to repent and atone to our neighbors and siblings for either sitting on the sidelines, or simply not doing enough to help them survive; and forgiving ourselves for missing the past messaging that could have led to us being awakened, only we did not properly consider the complexity and difficulty that it takes for everyone to be fully free.
Nonetheless, the foundation of praxis for solidarity leads again to the message that all scriptures have in their own way, what Gutiérrez challenges us to do: “Confront the tension.” Confront our tendency to default into sympathy alone, and not true recognition of the other, and of what solidarity asks of us. Most importantly, do not be afraid to really look at the true beauty your eyes are not yet ready to see, and to trust why all our siblings are considered God’s children.
May you sit and think of all the times you were complicit and ignorant to what your siblings experiencing oppression needed at the moment. Think of times you found yourself undereducated and underprepared to support your oppressed siblings. Think of all the questions you may have asked someone else, who may have been very tired of educating others, instead of trying harder to figure out yourself. Think of the time you went out of your way to pity, instead of treating your neighbor like a person in pain. Most importantly, reflect on how your actions are seen by others, and how does that affect your actions? If you, the readers, wish to transform, ask the question: What do I need to become in order to contribute to the legacy of liberation, or against oppression?
I wish to highlight the person reading this piece as someone who is embodying the ideals that this article was written for, and the community we create as we all engage with these ideals together. The first step to salvation, or better yet, a just world, is repentance. For us to make efforts to acknowledge the problems of impulsive actions, we must sit, read, and then contemplate ourselves, and the times we allowed internalized “isms,” supremacies, and phobias to manifest in us, and allowed our complicity in the system to be disguised as merely sympathy. This is our first step to resisting the temptation of joining in with the norms of the oppressors. Our transfiguration will never be on the level of Jesus’s, but may we forever transform ourselves to spread the good news, to seek a world that is both right and just.
This photo inspired me to write this article. The idea of looking at this photo should be nothing more, nothing less, than Black Boys who enjoy tea. However, this photo, regardless of the obvious, carries undertones that bring challenges.
For me, I see the subjects of my photo being joyful in their authenticity. However, the reality outside of myself knows that so many people will see this and think that the subjects’ physical appearances do not, and should not match the image of the location they are in.
Image description: Three or four Black boys sit in a tea shop, with a gold and crystal chandelier above them, and large floral wallpaper behind them with pale pink flowers. One faces the camera, wearing a tan cap, black filtration mask, and a tan sweatshirt. Two sit with their backs to the camera, both wearing black sweatshirts, one tan coat, and one white and blue winter coat slung over the backs of their chairs. They appear to be in conversation with one another. A tea pot and cups are visible on the table between them.