One of the major activities of God is communication. The triune God, Father, Son and Spirit, never tires of inviting us to enter the Divine presence, which is close to us all.
Apparently God delights in revealing divine love and mercy to the world. This year on the feast of the Transfiguration on 6 August, we hear about how Jesus showed himself to Peter, James and John. The prophet Daniel narrates another vision of revelation in which God is revealed in great light and fire.
And the Second Letter of Peter repeats the Transfiguration message: ‘This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’
Does revelation continue to happen today? Does God reveal himself to us, the pilgrim Church, in the ordinary and extraordinary events of our lives?
Many of you may have heard of the Carmelite sister and Doctor of the Church, St Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897), affectionately known as ‘the Little Flower’.
In 1997, St Pope John Paul II named her a doctor of the Church, a rare and distinguished title. Even though she lived but twenty-four years here on Earth, God bestowed incredible graces upon this woman who had a will of steel.
In Story of a soul: the autobiography of St Thérèse of Lisieux, this saint wrote:
Because I was little and weak he lowered himself to me, and he instructed me secretly in the things of his love. Ah! had the learned who spent their life in study come to me, undoubtedly they would have been astonished to see a child of fourteen understand perfection’s secrets, secrets all their knowledge cannot reveal because to possess them one has to be poor in spirit.
The Little Flower was invited up the mount of Transfiguration. She came to know the love and mercy of God as revealed in the person of Jesus. Like Peter, James and John, she came to know in a direct fashion, not through books and lectures, the hidden mysteries of eternity.
When one comes in possession of such good news, the immediate desire is to share it with others. That’s the way we are built. Coming down the mountain the disciples had good news to shout to the world. What the prophets and the law talked about had become manifest in Christ.
St Thérèse was no different. She too had a tremendous desire to spread the good news and longed to become a missionary. But health and personal circumstances did not permit that yearning to be realised in a physical way. Through prayer, she would be united with the Mystical Body of Christ, a belief that was central to her spirituality.
In responding to the revelations given her, the Little Flower expressed her vocation in these two ways: ‘I will be love’, and ‘My vocation is to make Love loved.’ Here is the work of evangelisation, to take the gift given and to spread it throughout the world. Just as Jesus knew himself to be the ‘Beloved,’ so too the Little Flower experienced the same grace. Now the call was to make God loved, a God who is Love.
On 30 September 1897, Thérèse died. She was canonised in 1925 and named a Doctor of the Church in 1997. She spent time on the mountain with the Lord and from that place still she continues to be with us. In commenting on heaven she wrote: ‘After my death I will let fall a shower of roses. I will spend my heaven in doing good upon Earth.’
The Transfiguration is a feast that continues to transform the Church and the world. May it continue to transform us all, especially here in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.