At the beginning of the month of August, we find ourselves, perhaps astonishingly, more than halfway through the year. With less than five months until Christmas and more than seven months since our New Year's resolutions, August is a good month to take stock of where we find ourselves in our journey through this year as well as through our lives. Certainly, we all have been through a difficult time because of the covid pandemic, experiencing much disruption, confusion and perhaps an illness or the loss of a loved one. This experience alone reminds us of the need that we have to put things in perspective and to be prepared for the future in a manner that gives meaning to life through faith.
Just a few weeks ago on July 18, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, made his first Sunday appearance in the Vatican itself after his release from the hospital, for his Angelus message. On this occasion, reflecting upon the Gospel for that Sunday in which the apostles returned to Jesus after he had sent them out on mission, the Pope reflected upon the Lord's words to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while" (Mk 6:31). Jesus gave the apostles an invitation to rest.
Pope Francis expressed that it is important for all of us to take this opportunity to rest. He said that to truly rest, "We must return to the heart of things: stop, to remain in silence, to pray so as not to go from the frenzy of work to the frenzy of times of relaxation." Pope Francis reflected that "Compassion is born from contemplation. If we learn to truly rest, we become capable of true compassion; if we cultivate a contemplative outlook, we will carry out our activities without that rapacious attitude of those who want to possess and consume everything; if we stay in touch with the Lord and do not anesthetize the deepest part of ourselves, the things to do will not have the power to cause us to get winded or devour us. We need – listen to this – we need an 'ecology of the heart,' that is made up of rest, contemplation, and compassion.”
At this time of the year, as we begin the month of August, it is well for us to listen to the Holy Father's words, "Let us take advantage of the remainder of the summer for this! It will help us quite a bit." As school begins and as we take up other activities in line with our usual routine during the month of August, we do need to reflect upon the need for “an ecology of the heart.”
It is fitting that the Feast of the Transfiguration, which we celebrate on August 6, occurs during this month. The occurrence of the Transfiguration in the life of Christ is one that helps us further to take stock of ourselves and our journey in our relationship with the Lord. The Transfiguration occurred just a little more than halfway through the Lord's public ministry and can be compared to the August of the apostles’ journey with the Lord. It is an event that both revealed and transformed, as the apostles experienced the glory of Christ. It truly was to them an event that helped them to appreciate “an ecology of the heart.”
The month of August gives us a good opportunity to heed the Holy Father's invitation to take the opportunity to rest in contemplation which leads to compassion. Somewhat refreshed by the summer, we face what is before us in a context of a renewed purpose of understanding the meaning of life and of growing in our relationship with the Lord, especially in regard to our families and our children. The month of August can be likened to the mountain upon which the Transfiguration took place. The biblical notion of a mountain not only symbolizes a physical height but also an inward one to the heart. The assent of a mountain offers freedom from the concerns of daily routine and the ability to enjoy the air of God's creation. From the mountain we can view the magnitude of God's creation, as well as its beauty, and have the vantage point of a more intensive sense of God. The Transfiguration reminds us, with the apostles, that God's glory is revealed and is always present with us as well as within our hearts. As we move forward in our existence, the treasure of His presence helps us to place everything else in proper perspective. It also affords us the opportunity to heed the words of God the Father to the apostles, "This is my beloved son, listen to him!" God speaks to us in His word, the Sacraments of the Church, and through others in the depths of our hearts. We need to take the time to listen to Him and to rest in Him, as Pope Francis has invited us.
As we take the time to reflect upon this year, halfway through it, may this lead us to always take the time to reflect upon our journey through life and to be attentive to Christ’s presence among us as He is transfigured in so many ways before us. It is the revelation of His glory that lights the world in which we live and reminds us of our journey to the fullness of His revelation in the kingdom of heaven. Pope Francis reminded us recently in his message for the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly that, when we take time to reflect and pray, we can carry out much more that really matters than by being so much involved in the frenetic activity of our days. May we truly develop “an ecology of the heart” during August and all during the year.
Most Reverend Gerlad M. Barbarito
August 6, 2021