(SONG: "Gimme that ole-time religion,... that's good enough for me!) For those of you who have looked over today's handout, the 2011 Bill of Rights*, the old time religion is no longer good enough for us. Without going into much detail, each of these ten statements expresses what we as mature believers carry into our Eucharist celebrations and into our lives thereafter. The emphases are on the primacy of conscience, community, ministerial leadership, freedom to speak out in the Church, the right to the sacraments, a good name, choosing of leadership, active participation in the governing of Church life, and carrying out social justice activities.
The processional music in today's Liturgy was the Elias Oratorium, Felix Mendelssohn-Batholdy's imaginative expression of how we in this day and age are beginning to look anew at and for our Creator.
This is not the traditional image of the bearded old Man in the sky who 6,000 years ago created our world in seven days. Nor is the Creator in the wind, rending mountains and crushing rocks, nor in the earthquake nor in the fire, but in the tiny, whisper just as Elias received the message in today's first reading.
Ecologists, archeologists, paleontologists, outer-space photographers and other natural scientists as well as a whole range of historians and Scripture scholars are more and more portraying our universe as being some thirteen billion years old with awe-inspiring power and development. They say that the Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras describe how life first appeared and then thrived. These eras are followed by what some call the Ecozoic Era : the time to accept, to protect and to foster our environment. This transitional period is progressing according to a creative Energy hard for us to envision and accept since we've always considered ourselves to be the masters of the world.
With this in mind, it is easier for us to understand the natural (and, to us, destructive!) earthly events such as tsunamis, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, floods and other catastrophes. People have often questioned the goodness of God in the face of such (humanly speaking) tragic events.
In the second reading, Paul emphasizes the special place of salvation history and enumerates the eight blessings the people of Israel received leading to the coming of Christ. With Moses, Elias is often perceived as the forerunner of the Promised Savior. Also, Elias was thought to have been reborn in the person of John the Baptist, and that he would return in the very same chariot that had originally carried him into heaven. In the two Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration event, the apostles suggest building 'huts' for Jesus, for Moses (representing the Law) and for Elias (the best-known prophet) : the three main figures in the history of God's 'Chosen People.'
Then in the Gospel reading, we have the often blustery Peter trying to lead and then losing heart and trust when Jesus accepts his challenge. Our own acceptance of the status of the lives we lead is constantly being tested by our personal weaknesses and by the temptations offered by the legendary seven capital sins. The greatest challenge on our part may be to accept with deep faith the fostering of an oftentimes fragile creation that has been entrusted to us not as masters but as protectors. Amen!
[*taken from the National Conference of the American Catholic Council held in Detroit, Michigan, June 10-12, 2011]