This Sunday we take a break from the Ordinary Time of the church year to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus. It was added to the church calendar for this day by Pope Callistus III to celebrate the defeat of the Turks at Belgrade in 1457. It also marks the horrendous memory of the atomic explosion over Hiroshima that occurred on this day in 1945.
If you saw the recent movie, “Oppenheimer” you saw the details of this nuclear atrocity. Not only was Hiroshima destroyed but also Nagasaki three days later. Over 110,000 people were killed. Oppenheimer’s legacy is complex as both a brilliant scientist and as a man who set the world on a dangerous path. Oppenheimer thought he was doing the right thing and thought he was protecting the country. It’s very conflicting, because on the one hand you have to admire his brilliance, but on the other hand, he’s also a tragic figure because what he did led us into the nuclear age. He ushered in something that could truly destroy everything.
In the 78-plus years since Oppenheimer directed the Manhattan Project to produce the world’s first nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia have amassed 5,244 and 5,899 nuclear warheads, respectively, according to the latest data from the Federation of American Scientists. There are approximately 12,500 nuclear warheads worldwide, the data shows. So, we need the Transfiguration of Jesus today. We need the Lord Jesus.
In today’s Gospel it was appropriate for Jesus to manifest himself in his glory to the apostles because those who are going on a difficult path need a clear sense of the goal of their journey. The hard road is life, with all its sufferings, failures, disappointments and injustices. Therefore, we need this feast to guide us through hard times. It would be easy to give in to despair unless we have a vision of the glory that comes at the end of this journey. And this is the reason, why Jesus, before traveling to Jerusalem to walk the way of the cross, for a brief moment, allows the light to shine through Him.
Although we live and move within the limits of space and time in this world, we are not ultimately destined for this world; we are called to life on high with God, transforming the state of our existence. May the Transfiguration of Jesus that we celebrate today awaken our sense of wonder and strengthen our courage to face the darkness of evil. Let us pray even more strenuously today for peace in our world.
Fr. Mark Zacker