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The Transfiguration and other blinding lights

By August 5, 2022General

The Transfiguration and other blinding lights

This week we celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration when Jesus appeared to three of his disciples in the full glory of his divinity. Seventy -seven years ago on the 6th of August, there was a transfiguration of a different kind – another blinding light when the power of the atom was unleashed in the form of a bomb and exploded in a lethal flash over the city of Hiroshima in what Pope St John Paul II called “a butchery of untold magnitude”.It is very difficult to imagine the full horror of the suffering and destruction in Hiroshima on that day. We are numb before the film clips, the paintings and eye-witness accounts of the survivors. The temperature at the centre of the fireball was 300,000 degrees centigrade. The survivors are called in Japanese “Hibakuska” – those who have seen hell.

It is appropriate that our annual commemoration of the first nuclear attack on human life should take place on the feast of the Transfiguration – a feast which focuses our attention on the divinity of Christ and His Lordship over all creation. It is also appropriate that the occasion should draw our attention to the nuclear arms race, the money spent on it and its impact on the poorest and most deprived people in the world. Sadly, we now have the nuclear capacity to destroy the planet twelve times over!I could never have imagined back in the 1980’s when I camped out in sodden fields in protest against the deployment of American cruise missiles at bases like Greenham Common and Upper Heyford, that I would one day actually see them being used, as they are today by the Russians in Ukraine. Nor did I think I would live to hear, for only the second time in my life (the first being the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962), the term ‘nuclear strike’ being used by a politician as it was recently by the Russian foreign minister.The anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (6th and 9th August), remind us powerfully that what is at stake in the nuclear arms race is not the technology of weaponry, how many and how powerful, but frail human flesh, and whether that flesh will be allowed to continue to exist or will be incinerated in unprecedented quantities.It reminds us, too, that our first loyalty should be to those members of our own species, the poor, the powerless and the starving millions throughout the world. In short, those among whom Jesus lived and for whom he died and continues to die daily, even in our midst. These are the victims of the nuclear arms race since they are already being deprived in order to pay for it.However, these anniversaries are not just about recalling the horrors of terrible events; they are also opportunities for reflection on what we can do to make the world a more peaceful place. The scriptures tell us that we must first turn back to God and place our hope and trust in Him. They tell us, too, that we will have to work harder on behalf of our sisters and brothers everywhere. And they challenge us to lay down our fear of the “enemy” since we are all members of God’s family. A tall order indeed!So let us pray that Jesus will continue to guide and strengthen us to witness to his teaching which, as St Peter tells us, is a lamp for lighting our way though the dark “until the dawn comes and the morning star rises in our hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

Fr. Gerry McFlynn

Author Fr. Gerry McFlynn

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