Our gentle valley is hazy with smoke this afternoon and I fear there may be fires farther east, this warm California weekend in August. The hills are brown and dry with temperatures climbing into the nineties. A quiet Sunday afternoon, slow, this day of rest.
At St. Peter’s Oakland we heard a sermon on the Prodigal Son. This rich tale of a son leaving his father to find his fortune elsewhere and returning a penitent beggar, holds so many images and epiphanies. In this parable told by Christ, each key figure – the wandering son, the wise and loving father, the jealous brother – reflects our relationship with one another and with God.
The priest who spoke today, however, mentioned a quote I often recall from Oscar Wilde: “The judgment of God is to give us what we want.” Versions ring in my memory: “Beware of what you pray for, you might get it.” How true. What do we really want? What do, or should, we pray for?
I considered Thursday’s great Feast of the Transfiguration celebrating the scene on the Mount of Olives when Christ’s face was “altered, and his raiment was white and glistering,” as he prayed and spoke with Moses and Elijah. Peter , James, and John waited nearby (they actually fell asleep, something I would most likely do), waiting their Lord’s will.
Transfiguration by God. Isn’t that what we want? To know him, to do his will. In the end, if God’s will is done, we shall be happy, we shall be changed, we shall be transfigured. Our lives will be one glorified prayer, on earth and in heaven, past, present and future. Each of us will be that person we are meant to be, that person we deeply yearn to be. Our heart’s desire.
But how do we know God’s will?
So my thoughts return to the Church, and in particular, the parish of St. Peter’s Oakland, where the Body of Christ meet to do just that – to partake in the Eucharist, to worship, and to learn a bit more about God’s love for each of us, his desire to mold us into that people we are meant to be. For an hour, we are no longer prodigal with our time, our lives, our goods, and we draw close to God. We are transfigured.
August pulls us through summer. School will soon start. The seasons change our landscape and this natural transfiguration, one more reflection of God’s glory, draws us through time, to him.
St. Peter’s Church: Sunday Mass: 10:00, 6143 Lawton Ave., Oakland;http://www.saintpetersoakland.com/