One of the interesting concepts we studied in philosophy and theology is the ad intra and ad extra dynamics or movements in the Church.
Ad intra is going deep into oneself through reflection and introspection, going deep into one’s interiority. Ad extra is the outward movement, the service component, the outreach.
These are the twin movements we see in today’s Gospel. Witnessing the majesty of Christ was, in a way, a very interior encounter. It was a spiritual awakening for Peter, James and John, their version of a beatific vision, seeing the future glory of Christ and understanding who he was.
It was an experience of great enlightenment and peace, so much so that Peter wanted to stay there “forever.”
Christ, though, very clearly corrects the “danger” of getting caught in the “high” of a spiritual moment. He goes down from this sacred mountain where heaven and earth meet. The person who encounters Christ and goes out into the world, goes down from the hill to proclaim this message of the transforming experience with Christ.
This is the same invitation of Pope Francis. If Blessed Pope John XXIII, with his convening of the Second Vatican Council, opened the windows and the doors of the Church to allow fresh air to come in and rid the Church of its stale air, Pope Francis invites us to go out of the secure and tidy confines of the Church and enter a world untidy and replete with insecurities for many who are dispossessed and underprivileged.
This is one of the blessings of our faith and spirituality: It is both contemplative and active at the same time. It is a dynamic faith. Today’s Mystery of the Transfiguration in this Sunday’s Gospel is one of the most dramatic and to-the-point expressions of this dynamism.
As seminarians we were told that the dynamism of our faith and spirit comes from the tension between opposites in our life and person—to be a sinner and a saint, to be a contemplative in action.
The greatest source of the dynamism of our faith is our central mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection, what we are preparing for this entire Lenten season. The tension of life and death gives us the dynamism that overcomes sin and hatred. It is from this tension that new life emerges, the dynamism of love.
Writer and educator Margaret Wheatley puts it succinctly and correctly as she concludes that the greatest source of passion and dynamism in organizations is love. Chris Lowney, in his book “Heroic Leadership,” says the same: The greatest achievements in human history were done by persons who were nurtured into excellence in a caring environment.
Today’s Gospel is the central expression of the core of who Christ is: “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” We first heard this at the Baptism of Christ, at the start of his vocation journey.
This is what we prepare for this Lent in its most eloquent expression: the Cross and the Resurrection, where Christ on the Cross shows his being the Beloved Son through his loving obedience to his Father, and the Father in the Resurrection expresses how pleased He is with His Beloved Son.
Let this be the grace we pray for this Sunday: to see the sources of the dynamism of our faith from which will come our ability to love in the way Christ and the Father love us.
Our being contemplative in action, the ad intra and ad extra movements in our life and soul, allows the dynamism of love and service to come to life in the day to day.
Lent is a time to rediscover this dynamism of our faith and spirituality, and to prepare ourselves to embrace the most dynamic of all loves, the Cross and the Resurrection.
It is a love that embraces death lovingly and, because of this, gives birth to a life that is eternal. It is a love that knows no end and no boundaries.