SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. (Lk 9:28)
The feast of the transfiguration is August 6th, the date in 1945 when the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima created a blinding light: these are the extreme poles of the human potential.
I wrote yesterday about the powerful process of forgiveness and how we need to be prepared to enter it immediately if we become victims of injustice. The alternative is too horrible: to be sucked into it and become like the injustice we are suffering. In resisting injustice, as we must, we may at times lose our innocence and commit injustices ourselves. To prevent or moderate this ripple effect of evil – mirroring what we are fighting – we must struggle, heroically, and against all the odds, to love our enemy even as we fight him. Being on the right side does not give a moral carte blanche.
The Allies’ demonisation of the ‘Hun’ in the first world war fuelled the horrors of the trenches and the deaths of ten million soldiers and ten million civilians. China’s demonising of the Dalai Lama, as absurd and mendacious as Putin’s justification for his attack on Ukraine, justifies the rape and pollution of Tibet. Years ago I went to a cinema to watch a Lord of the Rings movie. In the digitalised battle scenes, hordes of ugly Orcs poured out against the good guys and were mown down in huge numbers to the delight of the children around me. This was repeated in several scenes until finally I had to go out for air. Netflix series use even more devious ways of hooking you with graphic, sadistic violence which both shocks and addicts the viewer.
A Russian in France and who opposes the war told me of being attacked and rejected by fellow-Russians calling her unpatriotic and also by non-Russians lumping her with all Russians assumed to be Putinists. Some symphony orchestras have removed Tchaikovsky from their repertoire.
In the Statements of the Ukrainian resistance I do not hear such a blanket, racist denunciation of Russia. I sense their motivation is not hatred but a courageous love of their own homeland. In their suffering in face of overwhelming, surreal brutality we see how love of enemy and forgiveness can be manifested. It is not surrendering to or imitating the Beast but an expression of love and fidelity : keeping one’s attention on the Good even while we are battered by Evil.
It is this which changes the ‘aspect’ of the human face, transfiguring hatred into the light of God even in intense and helpless suffering. Then we can see where God is in these moments when humanity becomes inhumane. God shares in the suffering and God is unable to be anything but God. This transfigures suffering itself. It is what Blaise Pascale understood when he said that ‘Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world’.
Lenten Reflections 2022