6 Aug 2023
78th Anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945
Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
2 Peter 1:16–18
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.
For he received honor and glory from God the Father
when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory,
“This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven
while we were with him on the holy mountain.
Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.
You will do well to be attentive to it,
as to a lamp shining in a dark place,
until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
SOMEBODY SAY AMEN
When I prepare to preach on this podcast, I have a habit of posting an accompanying image at word.op.org for the scripture and preaching of the day. Today’s image is an abstract Transfiguration painting in acrylic on canvas by Canadian artist Anne Reid. On her webpage, Reid describes herself as “a prophetic artist” whose “deepest joy is to experience the glory realm in worship, and to share that experience with others through her paintings.”
Given that the Feast of the Transfiguration falls on August 6, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, I find it compelling that Anne Reid’s abstract glory image of Jesus’s Transfiguration could equally depict those who stood witness and fell victim to the testing and deployment of nuclear warheads in New Mexico and Japan in 1945.
How, on the Feast of the Transfiguration, can we experience the glory realm in worship when August 6 is etched in memory as the date when the atomic bomb “Little Boy” was dropped on its civilian target in Japan?
How can we celebrate this glory day of worship when in the last month—78 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and despite 120 nations having signed the 2008 Convention prohibiting the production, stockpiling, use, or transfer of cluster munitions—the United States has sent stockpiled cluster bombs for deployment in Ukraine?
The “cleverly designed myth” of war, both nuclear and so-called conventional war, blinds us to war’s death and destruction and pays it forward from generation to generation. The cleverly designed myth of war blinds us to the prophetic message of Moses, Elijah, and the prophets—including Jesus, the Prince of Peace. The atrocity of war crimes numbs us to our most profound joy in worship.
In recent months, I have felt compelled to antiwar preaching for the first time in many years. I am well aware of the possible charge of naivety in the face of the atrocities perpetuated by Russia against Ukraine. At his July 23 Angeles talk, Pope Francis told his listeners to beware of the naïve who “live in a fairy tale, pretending not to see evil.” He also urged Catholics to guard against “poisonous pessimism” and “sterile optimism” in the face of evil.
The cleverly designed myth of war asks to be fed with more money and weapons, hate and hopelessness, dead bodies, destroyed cities, and destroyed dreams. Where will it end? I keep thinking of the bereaved and orphaned children, and my cracked heart says, No more war. I lay my naïve and cracked heart at Mary’s feet, and I beg God for diplomacy and a politics that defies the myth of war to form alliances of peace.
God, we beg you to give us artists, prophets, witnesses, political leaders, and preachers who feel war’s pain. Crack our stony hearts. Help us to work together internationally to build bridges toward peace. Transfigured One, apply your spittle to our war-burned retinas so that we might begin to see what the atrocity of war requires of the Beloved Community. Give us agency to grab hold of your glory.
“Your prophetic message is altogether reliable. We will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in the hearts of all your people.” Now is the time to stop stockpiling and deploying death and destruction and to open our hearts to God’s Glory Realm, where all God’s people can say Amen, and where the trauma of war can, at last, in some real measure, stop and heal.
Scripture passage from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.