Do you remember "holy" cards? Back in parochial school, going home with one of these earned us a special dessert at supper. If our teacher gave it to us, it meant we had all our homework turned in on time or maybe even perfect attendance for an entire semester. If the parish priest gave it to us at report-card time, it meant we had an excellent report card to show our parents. Either way, a holy card was a winning hand!
Then I noticed many holy cards had a halo, a circle of light, around the head of Jesus, or Mary or some saint. I learned that the halo's size and brightness was a way of measuring that person's perceived holiness; of course the biggest, brightest halo belonged to Jesus. I was told that there are some people who can actually see circles of light around people who are exceptionally good. I learned too that the very word "holiness" comes from the word "wholeness." Whoever was "holy," was "whole," i.e., "living life to the fullest." I think that might just be what the three disciples saw at the mountaintop in today's Gospel. For just a moment, they saw Jesus transfigured, the result of living his life to the fullest, reflecting the "goodness of God" in a way never before experienced on earth.
Here's my point: there is some trace of goodness and godliness within us all, and we are meant to connect to the goodness and godliness in each other. How? Well, Scripture tells us that we are Temples of the Indwelling Spirit and, by baptism, we become disciples of Jesus. If this is so, and it is, then we should live out the Beatitudes of Jesus because these are his own standards of discipleship and the road to genuine freedom.
If we are "poor in spirit," then we are free of the many things our consumer society says we must have.
If we "mourn our losses," then we are free of disabling pain, anguish and depression and we can move on with our lives, and we can also show genuine compassion to others who mourn.
If we are "meek," then we are free of the need for power, control, and approval that motivate so many people in today's world.
If we "hunger and thirst for justice," then we are free of the conventional thinking that values people for the material possessions they've accumulated in their lives.
If we are "merciful," then we are free from resentment, free from holding grudges and we are much quicker to forgive.
If we are "pure of heart," then we trust the feelings of our hearts, freeing our minds from distractions that can so easily overwhelm and confuse us.
If we are "peacemakers," then we are free from angry showdowns and from needing to have everything done our way.
If we "suffer persecution," we free ourselves from the need to be always in control of our lives.
These beatitudes measure both the love we have and the freedom we possess. The religious leaders of Jesus' time did not fear Jesus because he healed people; they feared Jesus because he was freeing people from their authority and control. Observing these Beatitudes is a fine Lenten program! If it is true that some people can actually see halos, circles of light around peoples' heads, maybe I can begin to see them too. As Lent continues, I'll be looking for halos around your heads. Maybe, just maybe, by Easter Sunday your own godliness will be shining so brightly that I'll need sunglasses to look at you! Have a great Lent!!