Asleep in the Light


This may have come up before, but the EF Gospel and the OF Gospel for Year A (which we always use when there are catechumens) are the same pericope: the Transfiguration account from Matthew. In this passage, after the terror of the divine vision, Jesus touches the Apostles and says,
Ἐγέρθητε καὶ μὴ φοβεῖσθε.
Egerthete kai me phobeisthe
Surgite, et nolite timere.
Arise and be not afraid.

Matthew uses a form of this word, “Arise”, 36 times. While the other three Gospels use it a grand total of 50 times between them. I don’t want to project meaning where there is none, but I usually think of Matthew’s Gospel as very staid, very humdrum. Suddenly is Mark’s word, Mysticism is John’s thing. Luke is warm and fuzzy homespun stuff. Matthew is the Sermon on the Mount and a representation of the Torah. Yet just now, I’m hearing him yelling, ARISE!

Arise from your sleep. “Jesus rose from the grave,” sang Keith Green. “And you can’t even get out of bed.”

Arise from the comfort. The Coronapanic has reminded me that Christians were not afraid of disease when we didn’t know what caused it. We marched out on the hillsides of ancient Rome and brought home the sick and the dying that had been discarded by their families, along with the newborn babies who were thrown away. Germs were no less dangerous when we didn’t understand them, but we brought these germ-factories home and nursed them back to health or helped them die in peace. A friend of mine, a retired nurse from Tennessee, suggests this proto-hospital and proto-hospice work helped the Christian communities develop a sort of herd immunity to diseases that terrified and decimated the rest of Rome. We may have died in the process, but it was a death of love.

We’re willing to sleep through that now, it seems.

Arise from your passive acceptance of the world. The economic situation today has reminded me that Christians are radicals: our very presence in Rome terrified the powers that were. We didn’t accept their definitions of what it was to be human, we rejected their ideas of “rights” and “justice” because those ideas were blasphemous: they denied the image of God present in the human beings around us. Instead, we were willing to die to say the roots of love demanded morality, the roots of justice demanded truth, and that truth himself had become incarnate in a carpenter from the trailer park of the Roman World. And he had been arrested and put to death and forgave everyone.

Arise from your hate. The political situation today has reminded me that Christians are revolutionaries: because of that forgiveness, we have no political enemies at all. It takes demons to lead humans away from God’s light: and we have to pray the demons away, engage in spiritual warfare to free the souls of those trapped around us. The first – indeed the only – weapon of this warfare is love.

Arise and DO NOT FEAR. While love is the cure for hate, the enemy of Love is not hate but rather fear. Love casts out fear. We are called to “Arise and fear not.” What were the Apostles afraid of in this passage? God himself, and also humanity shining, in Jesus, as we were always intended to shine. We all are afraid of who we are supposed to be: afraid to be the men and women of God, the saints we are created to be, the light we are commanded to be in the world. Jesus says he is the light of the world – but because we are members of the body of Christ he also says we are the light of the world! The Risen Lord means all of humanity is transfigured in him.

But we would rather hide, stay away, keep safe. Germs are not supposed to scare us.

Arise! Shine! For your Light has come! The Glory of the Lord has risen upon you!

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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