Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. Can I ask you for a few moments to look up at the great stained-glass window behind me? I know you have seen it hundreds of times but just rest your eyes on it again. Isn’t it beautiful? The light, the colour and the images. We are so blessed to have these beautiful Churches here in Wexford to cherish and use for worship and prayer. Like you, I love beauty. I love a beautiful song, a beautiful poem, a beautiful rainbow or sunset, beautiful art and beautiful people when we are at our best. What draws us to others is the beauty of soul and the beauty of charity, mercy and forgiveness when we see it. Beauty gives us hope and delights the soul. It takes us out of ourselves and makes it easier to believe. We fall in love with beauty, sing its praises and want to stay in its presence.
For Peter, James and John, what they experienced on Mount Tabor was an experience of beauty. In some mysterious way, the light of God’s divinity shone out from Jesus in a way that they could see and experience. The effect of this divine presence on Peter was to delight. He said: ‘Lord, it is wonderful for us to be here’. So great was his joy that he wanted to stay there and linger in that experience forever. At that moment, the Apostles were blinded by the light of God’s beauty that they could see in the life of Jesus and his friendship with them. There was a beauty in his birth, a beauty in his miracles, his parables, his mercy and a beauty even in his cross. Even though his death was brutal and dark, the beautiful light that shone out from that darkness was the love with which he bore his suffering for the salvation of the world. For the early Christians, Jesus Christ was the beautiful face of a beautiful God. In the words of St Augustine, Jesus revealed God as ‘the Beauty of all things beautiful’ and the ‘Beauty from which all lesser beauties flow’ (Confessions, 3.6).
Pope Francis advocates the way of beauty as a pathway that can lead people to faith and deepen our faith too. He explains that ‘beauty is a means of touching the human heart and enabling the truth and goodness of the risen Christ to radiate within it’ (The Joy of the Gospel, 167). Today, we urgently need to discover the beauty of faith and the beauty of the One in whom we believe.
So how then can we find beauty and how can we show it? Let’s start with being here at the Eucharist, right here, right now. Let us behold the beauty of the liturgy, and the beauty of God’s charity to us. Here at the Mass, the beauty of Jesus’s mercy and charity is offered to us where he pours himself out again in goodness, truth and saving love. Just as Peter, James and John were drawn into God’s beauty on Mount Tabor, so he draws us deeper into God’s own beauty in a way that changes us. We become more beautiful too.
So, as we leave this Mass and face another week, let us seek beauty, behold beauty and be sources of beauty. Doing good for someone is making beauty visible for them. Suffering with love is hard but like Jesus’ passion, a beauty shines through the darkness. Forgiving someone is beautiful too. Feed your soul with beautiful words, beautiful stories and beautiful things. Avoid all that is ugly – talk, attitudes and things that are wrong and false. These things that are not just wrong but ugly. Sin is ugly. Holiness is beautiful.
I conclude with the famous words of St Augustine was changed by the beauty of God as Peter, James and John were at the Transfiguration. May we be changed by beauty too and become sources of beauty for a world that needs it.
‘Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you….You were with me, and I was not with you…You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I burn for your peace’ (Confessions 10, 27, 38).