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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of John Dear's Transfiguration, May 2, 2007
This review is from: Transfiguration: A Meditation on Transforming Ourselves and Our World (Paperback)

Transfiguration is the latest book from the Jesuit peace activist and spiritual leader John Dear. The entire book is a meditation on the story of the Transfiguration. It is a must read for all Christians, especially those involved in working for peace and justice.

Father Dear speaks of moments of transfiguration in our lives, times when we go up the mountain to be affirmed by the Father and come down ready to take up the cross and live the nonviolent Gospel of Jesus. Our lives are a walk with Jesus. Like Jesus, we proclaim nonviolent peace and justice. At times, we are affirmed and consoled by the Father, "You are my beloved son or daughter." The Father tells us to listen to Jesus.

When we listen to Jesus, we hear, "Love your enemies." "Love one another as I have loved you." "Put away your swords." "Pray for those who persecute you." "Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless. Care for the sick. Visit the imprisoned. Declare a year of jubilee for debt relief." When we listen to this and try to make it a reality in our lives and in our world, we take up our crosses, go forth from the mountain, and walk with Jesus to Jerusalem.

Father Dear reminds us that we must be prayerful people. We must contemplate the nonviolent teachings of Jesus every day. Contemplation is not the prayer of the Pharisees--words piled upon words. It is resting in the presence of God and listening to what God is telling us. Action without contemplation is futile. I pray daily for a more peaceful heart because I really need one and that is where it all really begins. I cannot make my heart more peaceful. Only Jesus can gift me with a peaceful heart.

He also reminds us that Jesus was nonviolent but not passive. Jesus actively resisted the evil of the empire and the Temple cult that surrounded him and oppressed him and his fellow Jews. He willingly absorbed the evil of crucifixion rather than retaliate in violence. He showed us that the only way to true peace and justice is by the suffering of the cross. We take up our crosses when we enter into the suffering of the poor and oppressed, the victims of all the structural violence in our world.

One of the main points I got from my first reading of the book (I will ponder this book many times!) is that we must let go of fear as we come down from the moments of transfiguration to work for peace and justice. In 2005, Father Dear personally taught me to let go of fear and cross the line at the Nevada Test Site to protest nuclear proliferation on the sixtieth anniversary of Hiroshima. I will never forget the moment when I walked into the barb wire holding area. Father Dear immediately came up to me and asked me, "Are you doing all right?" He is a powerful activist and a very sensitive, compassionate man. More recently, while I was reading the book, I let go of fear and signed up for a study mission to Israel and Palestine which now has been postponed. But, I will go. In the meantime, I am going to Ireland and to Northern Ireland this summer in order to study peacemaking there.

I also learned from the book that life is a series of transfigurations. That is what energizes us for our work. Each transfiguration brings us to a deeper awareness of the nonviolent Jesus. I am retired now and my wife and I spend a lot of our time working for peace and justice.

I fondly recall the moments of transfiguration in my life where the Father encouraged me to follow his nonviolent Son--a retreat at Agnes Scott College with Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy over twenty years ago, a retreat with Father John Dear at Kirkridge Retreat Center, and a retreat with Father Daniel Berrigan and Elizabeth McAllister also at Kirkridge. These gentle giants proclaim the nonviolence of Jesus to a world and a country that wants to have nothing to do with what they are proclaiming. However, they have taught me that being faithful to nonviolence is what it is all about. We live with hope beyond hope that Jesus will transform us and our world into the New Heaven and New Earth as promised.

I encourage you to read and reread the book. The Questions for Reflection that are scattered throughout the book give readers ample opportunity to contemplate the truth of Jesus' nonviolence and apply it to their own lives.

As Christians, our "weapons" are the towel and the bowl. We are to wash one another's feet. We are to serve not be served. We are to love one another as Jesus has loved us. We are to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors.

J. Patrick Mahon, Ph.D.
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