Spiritual leader and peace activist John Dear guides readers on the path to finding peace within, and bringing harmony to a world torn by hatred and violence, through following in the footsteps of Jesus.
John Dear's efforts on behalf of social justice and world peace have won him international admiration and spurred features in the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR's All Things Considered, USA TODAY, and the National Catholic Reporter. Seen by many to be the spiritual heir to the Berrigan brothers, Dear believes that the key to the spiritual life is not just finding inner peace, but also bringing that peace to bear on the outside world. In his latest work, Dear uses the Gospel account of the Transfiguration, inviting readers to shape their lives along the story of Jesus and to continue his mission of love and peace. These practices have sustained him through his work with the homeless in Washington, D.C., and New York City, as a human-rights advocate in Northern Ireland and Iraq, and on his many missions for peace in war-torn places around the world. Dividing the lifelong pursuit of peace into three distinct parts--an inner journey, a public journey, and the journey of all humanity--he delves into the challenges of learning to love ourselves as we are, diffusing the hatred we feel toward others, and embracing the choice to live in peace.
A Jesuit priest, successful author and peace activist, Dear uses Jesus' Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor as a model for personal and corporate transformation to the ways of peace and nonviolence. Using the biblical texts as a metaphor, he explores how we, too, can journey up the mountain, be transfigured and then walk back down into the world as transformed people and churches willing to go to the cross. Dear also includes helpful suggestions on spiritual practices that lead to embracing nonviolence, as well as questions for individual contemplation or group discussion. Like many who are passionate about their subject, Dear's sense that he absolutely knows God's will is daunting at times. He also stretches some of the biblical texts, arguing, for instance, that Moses and Elijah appear at the Transfiguration specifically to affirm Jesus' call to nonviolence. Dear is much to be admired for his persistence in the call for peace and nonviolence, a mission for which he has been willing to go to prison, and those who already share the author's views will find this book inspiring. Those who do not will probably go away unconvinced that the account of the Transfiguration makes his case. (Feb. 20) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 19, 2007
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Excerpt from Transfiguration by John Dear
On the Road with Jesus
In the summer of 1982, when I was twenty-one, I walked alone through Israel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to Nazareth to Galilee on a pilgrimage to see for myself the land that Jesus knew. I had spent the previous year working odd jobs in Washington, D.C., saving up for the trip as one last voyage into the world before I entered the Jesuits. It was the middle of June when I boarded an Amtrak train to New York City's Penn Station, walked to Thirty-first Street, and said a prayer in St. Francis of Assisi Church. Then I caught a cab to JFK Airport.
Unfortunately, just then, Israel invaded Lebanon. Many people canceled their plane tickets. I decided to go ahead with my adventure. Instead of the quiet pilgrimage I had envisioned, however, I found myself in a war zone. As I stepped off the plane that day in Tel Aviv, I was greeted with machine guns and interrogated. Wherever I went during those weeks, I saw not the dream of faith, hope, and love but the nightmare of bombs, tanks, and jets. My life would never be the same.
Toward the end of that summer pilgrimage, on a hot July morning, I rode the local Galilee bus from the sea town of Tiberias some twenty miles to the foot of Mount Tabor, the large, round mountain where tradition holds that Jesus was transfigured before his disciples, where Moses and Elijah appeared to him and God spoke from the clouds. After the bus driver let me off and drove on down the deserted road, I stood alone at the foot of the mountain, looking up. I still remember my excitement as I started up the dirt path, through the bushes and olive trees to the mountaintop, thinking about the mystery of the Transfiguration, thrilled and trembling to be climbing the mountain of God.
According to the Gospels, the Transfiguration marks one of the few overtly mystical experiences in Jesus' life. He was on his way to Jerusalem, where he would engage in nonviolent civil disobedience in the Temple, an act that would lead the authorities to arrest and execute him. On the mountain, in that place of solitude and beauty, God transformed him and gave him a taste of the resurrected life to come. He became the Christ he would become. Suddenly, Jesus' three closest friends realized that their rabbi was much more than a wise teacher or radical revolutionary. They knew, in fact, that he was the Holy One of God.
Whether the event actually occurred after the resurrection, as some Scripture scholars suggest, or whether it is meant to place Jesus as the fulfillment of the tradition of Moses and Elijah, representatives of the law and the prophets, something dramatic happened to Jesus on that mountaintop, and he found the strength to go back down to resist the empire and fulfill his destiny as the Suffering Servant.
It was blistering hot under a clear blue sky the day I climbed Mount Tabor. I carried only my backpack, with a few clothes, a camera, and a Bible. The road zigzagged, slowly making its way through trees and rocks to the top. The arduous climb often left me exhausted, but I was strangely exhilarated, overwhelmed to walk in the steps of Jesus, to see the land he saw. I rested under the olive trees and marveled at the panoramic view. I looked out at the beautiful brown hills and uninhabited valleys that spread as far as I could see.
After several hours of climbing, I reached the top. I continued along the path toward the majestic towers of the basilica, the huge Church of the Transfiguration, the sole building on the mountain, which commemorates the great event.
I approached the massive church with awe and wonder, walking slowly, mindfully, one step at a time. As I came near the structure, I saw that the front doors stood wide open. Taking a deep breath, I stepped inside, gazed at the huge mosaic of the Transfiguration, and realized there was no one else in sight. I was alone on the mountaintop.