Hidden Figures is a box office success! After the blunders at the Oscars, one could wonder if there wasn’t another in the omission of Hidden Figures. Perhaps there should be a category for the most “inspiring film.” The story of three brilliant black women mathematicians and their pivotal contributions to the NASA program encourages all to look beyond externals, to look beyond accepted stereotypes and prejudices, to think outside the box. Isn’t this a much needed message in our post-election world?
During the troubled 1960s, Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson commuted together to their jobs at NASA. Despite the terribly inconvenient and humiliating restrictions of segregation, they contributed their mental giftedness to NASA. The flight of John Glenn could not have succeeded without them. It’s too bad the world had to wait fifty-plus years to hear about it. But isn’t it true that behind all successful ventures there are many “hidden figures”?
Oftentimes, our comprehension of an event is shortsighted and dulled by familiarity. This coming weekend we hear the words of Matthew’s Gospel about the transfiguration of Jesus. Almost automatically, we move into memories of paintings of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah outlined in light under a luminous cloud. The disciples are facedown before the vision. The familiarity of this image actually hides its significance, its power, and its impact in our lives. Familiarity changes this stupendous vision into hidden figures. We don’t see their powerful reality.
For the Jews, their existence in the present world and their continuation into the next was totally wrapped up in the law. Moses is the symbol of that covenantal reality. His presence validates Jesus’ mission as the fulfillment of the law. Elijah is the encapsulation of all the words of God spoken through the prophets. His presence validates Jesus’ mission as the long-awaited One predicted by all the prophets. Both were mountaintop figures, who conversed with God in the high places. And here they are, again, in a high place with the fulfillment of the law and prophets, Jesus himself. Capping off this spectacular event is the powerful presence of God. God’s voice confirms that Jesus is the One. All are to listen to him. Listen! Listen!
Though this scene is fogged by familiarity, how do the “hidden figures” of Moses, Elijah, and a glorious Jesus blaze forth new energy and meaning? What stereotypes do they break and how do they lead us to think outside the box?
Have you ever had a truly transcendent experience? Maybe yours is back a ways or still ahead. That special memory or dream is a once-in-a-lifetime, a Mount Everest, experience! Life-changing! That’s what this experience was for the disciples. How would we feel if suddenly Pope Francis showed up during a weekend Mass? Or, as we prayed together, the church was suddenly filled with light and we actually heard a voice telling us we were in the right place and on the right track in life? How would our lives be changed if, instead of our priest presiding at the Eucharist, suddenly it was Jesus himself?
Yes, these are imaginings, or are they? Perhaps we need to believe they are also “hidden figures.” They are present just as the three ladies were present at NASA, but most chose not to see or hear them. Pope Francis is the earthly head of the body of Christ as we are its members. In some mystical way, he is present when we gather. Of course, Jesus the Christ is always present when we gather as well as when we are alone. He told us this over and over while he walked our earth. Do we hear the voice of the Father? It’s there, but like the others, it is hidden. What a transcendent experience we would have if suddenly our eyes and ears were opened!
Transcendent experiences are life-changing! Mountaintop happenings blast light to all surrounding areas. If we can place ourselves into this fantastic occurrence, light is bound to flood into our dreary Lenten journey. Can we truly listen to this hidden occurrence and allow it to splash into our mundane lives?
Patricia M. DeGroot, OblSB
O Lord, we ask for a boundless confidence and trust in Your divine mercy,
and the courage to accept the crosses and sufferings
which bring immense goodness to our souls and that of Your Church.
Help us to love You with a pure and contrite heart,
and to humble ourselves beneath Your cross,
as we climb the mountain of holiness,
carrying our cross that leads to heavenly glory.
May we receive You with great faith and love in Holy Communion,
and allow You to act in us, as You desire for your greater glory.
O Jesus, most adorable Heart and eternal fountain of Divine Love,
may our prayer find favor before the Divine Majesty of Your heavenly Father.
—Prayer for Trust and Confidence, St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio).