Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Our Lady Queen of Heaven
Lake Charles, Louisiana
August 6, 2011
The Feast of the Transfiguration

“Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John , and led them up a high mountain by themselves.”  Matthew 17:1

Recently there appeared in the newspaper (Wall Street Journal, July 23-24, 2011, page A5) a vivid and color photograph of a woman bending over her naked and malnourished child bathing him with water from a plastic container.  She and her child had taken refuge in a Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya.  “A civil war in Somalia,” the newspaper reported, “and the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in six decades have caused a severe famine.”  A few pages over, the same newspaper was reporting on the advantages of travel to an exotic destination where one could dive “into the culture and cuisine of one of the world’s hottest foodie destinations” (ibid D12).  Hunger is relative, isn’t it?  And so it is with the hunger for God. 

There are those who hunger for God at the level of starvation.  As a minister of the Church we have opportunities to meet them every day.  And as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta so well pointed out, the most spiritually starved are often found in the prosperous countries of the West.  The spiritual starvation there masquerades in the pursuit of material pleasures, pornography and drug addiction, to mention only two of the many self-indulgent excesses.  They, who suffer from this type of starvation, do not always come to Church.  They are found in places that frankly we do not frequent.  They are also found in places all too familiar to us, our schools, theaters, and courtrooms.  As with the starving child in the photograph, they await someone to bath them in water and share with them some release from the filth that surrounds them.

There is also a hunger for God in those who have tasted His love and search for it.  We often find them in Church.  They wait to hear God’s word proclaimed to them and hunger for the food of the Sacraments in living testimony to the union they share with Christ.  They want to hear more but often do not, because the minister preaches himself or, when he does preach the truth, the listeners “have ears and [do] not hear” (Mark 9:18). 

Today we celebrate the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are also ordaining a new deacon for the Church.  As a deacon takes his very name from the Greek word for service, so the Church has need of ministers who will respond to the starvation that surrounds them.  How do we do it, weak and feeble human beings that we are?  In fact, we do not.  Jesus does it, and we must be completely convinced of this truth, so that Jesus can work through us. 

 Consider, if you will, St. Peter’s witness to the Transfiguration in our second reading.  He writes, “We did not follow cleverly devised myths, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty” (II Peter 1:16).  This passage proclaims the reliability of the apostolic message.  It contrasts dramatically with the “cleverly devised myths.”  We need not go far to know what these “myths” were.  They are still with us today and remain a cause of spiritual starvation.  What the Transfiguration reveals to us and what contrasts so readily with the “myths” of yesterday and today is the source of the message.  When we hear the “myths” of today, we can well ask ourselves, where does this come from?  From a human being with an agenda, desiring to make a profit from our gullibility?   St. Peter reminds us that such is not the case with the apostolic message.  “God the Father” himself has spoken.  “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).  There is no profit, except that of “a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (II Peter 1:19). 

As a minister of the Church, we must find the opening words of the Gospel for this Feast of the Transfiguration quite consoling.  “Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves” (Matthew 17:1).  Jesus takes his most intimate followers by the hand.  Do they know where they are being led?  I doubt it.  As with trusting lambs taken by the Good Shepherd, they climb the mountain and there experience the glory of the Son.  There in the presence of the quintessential lawgiver, Moses, and the supreme prophet, Elijah, Jesus is revealed for who He is, the Son of the living God. 

A deacon of the Church begins his mission to address the starvation in the world by saying to our Lord, “Take me by the hand and lead me to a high mountain.”  This is a mystical experience, one that comes from deep conversation with our Lord, a communion with Him in prayer.  What makes it possible for a deacon or priest to say with St. Peter, “[W]e possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable” (II Peter 1:19)?  Because, like St. Peter, “[W]e were with him on the holy mountain” (II Peter 1:18). 

We cannot preach without having prayed.  Of this, we are certain.  How else could St. Peter have said what he did at the Transfiguration, “Lord, it is good that we are here” (Matthew 17:4)!  As a deacon, say that often to the Lord in His divine presence in the Blessed Sacrament.  Realize the hunger that is your own for the glory of God, a glory that comes from love, not the pursuit of human pleasure or the ambitions of this passing world.  “Lord, it is good that we are here.”  Say it over and over again, and see what He reveals.  Bring to Him your sorrows, challenges and misunderstanding.  They are inevitable, know it and embrace it.  Then, with Elijah and Moses, when you hear a voice that confirms everything that in faith you believe, what will Jesus do?  He will come to you, as He did to Peter, James and John, and Jesus will touch you and say, “Rise, and do not be afraid” (Matthew 17:7).  He knows that the starving cannot feast a banquet every day but only gradually be fed.  Do not be afraid.  Do not be self-consumed.  Be patient.  Be selfless and generous, in prayer as in life.  We are nothing.  He is everything.