A group of us in Catholic higher education in Philadelphia—students, educators, administrators—have been walking the synodal path with Archdiocesan leaders, including Archbishop Nelson Perez, for a year now. So we’re familiar with the mantra of the current phase of the global synod: enlarge the space in your tent! This is Isaiah’s recommendation to the forsaken people of Israel—make your tents bigger because God is going to make you a great people!
Last month, a last-minute inspiration to incorporate an actual tent into the design of our most recent cross-campus synodal gathering made all the difference. Under it we placed objects that were sacred to us and symbols of the charisms of our respective institutions. There were prayer cards and plants, wood carvings and flickering candles. Our tent amplified the palpable sense that yes, this is what a Church where all belong feels like! Despite the late hour, people were reluctant to leave.Surely the disciples felt these same things during Jesus’s transfiguration. Afterall, they too wanted to put up tents so they could marinate in the clarity of that mystifying moment: yes, Jesus is indeed the Messiah here to make whole God’s people! Who would want to leave that scene?
In the end, however, Jesus reminds them—and us—that discipleship is not about putting down our stakes in the miraculous serenity that comes with clarity of purpose or unequivocal belonging or irrefutable Divine inbreaking. As Richard Rohr says, “Jesus doesn’t want us to worship him; he wants us to follow him.” We’ve got to resist the temptation to make our tents permanent way stations on this chaotic journey. They are not portals of escape from the world as it is. We’ve got to take them down and get back to walking The Way with each other, its own transfiguration of our broken world.
- Have you ever had a transfiguration experience? What did it feel like? How could you return in some way to that experience?
- Where are you tempted to fixate on certitudes or tether yourself to comfortableness?
- Where is the next big tent experience on your horizon? What do you need from God to keep walking toward it?
Maureen H. O’Connell is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics in the Department of Religion and Theology at La Salle University. She recently published Undoing the Knots: Five Generations of American Catholic Anti-Blackness with Beacon Press.
Maureen H. O’Connell es profesora asociada de ética cristiana en el departamento de religión y teología de la Universidad La Salle. Recientemente publicó Undoing the Knots: Five Generations of American Catholic Anti-Blackness con Beacon Press.