Nonviolent Transformation

This is the third part of our seven part Lenten Reflection series with the theme Lenten Tears of Conversion: A Season of Transformation. Listening to Pope Francis’ call at the US—Mexico border to “weep over injustice” and soften our hearts, members and friends of the community, including Columban Fathers, co-workers, interns, volunteers, and short-term missionaries, reflect on how God’s mercy has entered their heart and transformed them. This reflection is from Sr. Anne McCarthy of Pax Christi USA.

 “And Jesus was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” Matthew 17:2

When Jesus is seen in the fullness of glory, the disciples think it’s a one-time vision about Jesus. However, Jesus pointedly leads them back down the mountain to the valley where the work of transfiguration continues and involves all of us.

Thomas Merton’s experience of transfiguration was on a street corner in Louisville. He wrote, “Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.”

Practicing nonviolence leads us to believe in this inherent and God-given beauty, dignity, and capacity for transformation of each person. Nonviolence is described as two hands: one hand to stop violence and the other to reach out to the opponent. Both are essential. 

How do we deal with opponents in a nonviolent struggle?

  • We act to stop violence and oppression.
  • We speak our truth clearly, forcefully.
  • We express healthy anger towards actions and behaviors.
  • We do not let ourselves or our movements be co-opted.
  • We protect all—including our opponents—from messages or actions that belittle, diminish, demean, threaten, or harm in any way.
  • We listen and honestly try to hear and understand every other person’s experience.
  • We assume the best possible motives for all, including our opponent.
  • We attempt to find points of common ground, human connection.
  • We open ourselves to transformation as we seek the transformation of the opponent.
  • We live Christ’s transfiguration.

Reflect on a nonviolent struggle in which you are involved. Identify an opponent in the struggle. How do you actively resist their actions which are unjust, violent, or oppressive? How do you reach out to them? 

This reflection was originally posted in Pax Christi USA's Lent booklet, Reconciliation with Justice: Reflections for Lent 2017.

Weekly Reflections on Justice is produced by the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach staff, volunteers, interns, Columban parishioners, Columban Missionaries, and friends of the Columbans. We hope these reflections help to guide you in your own spiritual journey working toward justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.