Pencil Preaching for Friday, August 6, 2021

Aug 5, 2021

“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him” (Mark 9:8).

The Transfiguration of the Lord

Dan7:9-10, 13-14; 2 Pet 1: 16-19; Mark 9:2-10

Jesus’ Transfiguration and Baptism are brilliant epiphanies in which God affirms his beloved Son in order to prepare him for his crucifixion and death. On the hill of Calvary, God is silent and darkness envelopes Jesus in apparent defeat. His baptism in the Jordan revealed who Jesus was; the Transfiguration reveals that his mission was to fulfill the Law and the Prophets in order to save the world from sin and death.  His suffering on the cross was his ultimate glory, but hidden from the world and revealed only to eyes of faith. All three experiences together advanced the core of Jesus’ self-understanding as God’s faithful servant and proclaimed his obedience in his last words, “It is accomplished!”

By blind coincidence or diabolical design, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan on August 6, 1945, the feast of the Transfiguration. “Little Boy,” created as part of the “Trinity” project, marked the birth of the nuclear age. Its achievement was such that only theological superlatives could measure its place in world history. Like another biblical allusion to divine wrath, “Shock and Awe,” used to describe the air campaign over Baghdad in 1991 at the start of the Gulf War, language was chosen to exhibit American confidence that the righteous Christian God was on its side against Islamic terrorism.

Today’s commemoration of the Transfiguration of Jesus is now inseparable from the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, whose ground zero included the largest Catholic Cathedral and worshiping community in Japan. On August 6, 2020, Pope Francis said, “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral, as I already said two years ago. We will be judged on this. Future generations will rise to condemn our failure if we spoke of peace but did not act to bring it about among the peoples of the earth.” 

Can we find any more explicit condemnation of these weapons of mass destruction? To the point, will global arms control come in time to prevent the next disaster?

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