Monday, March 1, 2021

Set Apart

From Fr. Paul Scalia at The Catholic Thing:

We have been set apart. We thus have to push against the temptation to adapt ourselves and our faith to the world. Like the Apostles, we must allow ourselves to be led apart by ourselves, away from the unreality of the world – no matter what discomfort, pain, and persecution that may bring.

And yet, our being set apart is not an end in itself. It is for union with God. As with Abraham, Moses, and Elijah, the Apostles are led up the mountain so that they can encounter God. On a mountain, God calls out to Abraham, gives Moses the Law, and comes to Elijah in a “still small voice.” (1 Kgs 19:12) And for the Apostles on Mount Tabor, our Lord “was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.” He brings them from the world to be with Him.

So also we detach ourselves from the world and its allurements so that we can become more attached to God and His promises. Indeed, without this purpose of separation, the detachment and sacrifices involved make no sense and soon become an unreasonable burden. Our being set apart is more for God than from the world.

Now, this applies first to our private prayer. We need to flee from the noise and news of the world in order to encounter the silence and truth of God. Unless we make the difficult ascent up the mountain by turning off the world’s distractions and temptations, our prayer will never take off. Likewise, our manner of worship should be apart from the world and for God. For us to benefit from Christ’s Eucharistic presence, the Mass must not be shaped by any of the world’s noise and superficiality.

But we do not remain at Mass. Which brings us to the final purpose of our being set apart: to return and give witness. When the great men in Scripture come down the mountain, they bring the fruit of their encounter with them. Abraham descends from Mount Moriah able to proclaim that God does not desire barbaric human sacrifice but will Himself provide the Lamb. Moses descends with the tablets of the Law of the Covenant. And Elijah returns to Israel renewed with zeal for that covenant.

The apostolic witness about the Transfiguration would be a little delayed: “He charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Still, the Apostles brought to others what they had encountered and received on the mountain. They descend from Mount Tabor able to bear witness to Christ, the Son of God. Peter would later write about “that unique declaration. . . .‘This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’” Then he adds, “We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.” (2 Pt 1:18) (Read more.)

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