Every second Sunday of Lent we read the Gospel of the transfiguration of Jesus. What’s the importance of this experience to the disciples? What’s the place of the transfiguration in our Lenten journey? What does it say about our Christian hope?
Bible readings Genesis 12: 1–4 Psalms 33: 4–5, 18–20, 22 2 Timothy 1, 8–10 Matthew 17: 1–9
But what kind of messiah is he?
The transfiguration of Jesus serves as a tiny hole that lets in a ray of light that makes enormous disclosure of who this man called Jesus is.
Jesus is known as a young man from Nazareth, son of a carpenter Joseph and Mary. He’s so ordinary that when he begins teaching as an itinerary rabbi the people hardly believe him. Besides, he’s engaged in endless confrontations with the religious authorities who consider him as heretic and law breaker. Not long ago, he shocked his disciples when he announced that he will soon be killed.
But what happens to the disciples who have abandoned their own affairs to follow him? What becomes of the hope that some people have placed in him as the messiah who will save them from the humiliation of being dominated and oppressed by foreign powers –the Romans? Will these people bear it? Won’t they throw in the towel like those others who already abandoned following him? Indeed, disciples have swallowed a good dose of deception. It’s in such atmosphere, I imagine, of questions, doubt, regret, discouragement and disappointment that Jesus takes with him Peter, James and John up the mountain.
Transfiguration a wow of discovery
On the mountain Jesus is transfigured in the presence of his disciples, his face shining like the sun, and his clothes become dazzling white. And from the cloud a voice affirms: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” We know from various biblical references, the overshadowing cloud signifies God’s presence. So it’s true! This man apparently so ordinary is actually a son of God! Wow! The experience is just awesome. As usual Peter can’t just hold himself, Lord it’s so beautiful here, let’s put up some structures and make our home here. That’s his spontaneous reaction. In that way, they can forget about the passion, death and all the problems of the world.
But it’s no time to settle. It’s not time of glory yet. That taste of the transfiguration is not meant to allure them into remaining on the mountain but rather a pat on the back to keep them moving. Indeed, the glory of the transfiguration that they have just tasted is what lies in store for all those who remain configured onto Christ. But before that there’s work to be down the mountain. Before the misery of the world a disciple of Jesus isn’t justified to be soaring perpetually in spiritual ecstasy. No wonder Jesus turns down the suggestion of Peter and they descend the mountain, there’s work waiting for them. A distressed father is seeking the healing of his epileptic son.
Daily transfiguration, balm for my journey
We know it from our own life, sometimes we go rough experiences which leave us not only drained but also doubting and disappointed. We lack the energy to pick ourselves up to continue the journey. We begin to question even what we have always held with great conviction.
It could actually be your experience this Lenten season that you may have begun in high spirits, determined to improve something in your life. Unfortunately, in the course of the past few days you probably stumbled onto some issue that has significantly shaken up your life, your marriage, your family or your work so much that the world around you seems to be crumbling. Is it not the moments like that lead some people even to suicide? But wait!
During moments like that we are invited to re-read our life and discover the transfigurations that have occurred in our life. They may not be that spectacular like that of Jesus, nevertheless, they are soothing enough to help us back onto our feet. Just remember that smile that warmed you up from your loneliness, that gesture of kindness that left you feeling positive about humanity. Indeed, no matter how coarse our life maybe yet we are not empty of moments of grace that we recall with relish. That’s your transfiguration. That’s a confirming voice: you are beloved daughter, beloved son of the Father. Yes, such moments are strong spiritual experiences that buoy us up.
However, the temptation is, like Peter, to want to settle as if we have reached the finish line. No! Transfigurations in our life are a pat on our back; God is telling us: go on son, go on daughter. He dresses our sore feet, applies some balm so that we can rise and carry on.
A call to walk in Faith
The transfiguration of Jesus assures us of the glory of heaven that awaits us when we reach the finish line. In the mean time we have some homework to do, down the mountain of our daily life. For that we need to journey in an attitude of faith like Abraham. But what’s faith?
First and foremost, faith is listening. Abraham listened to the voice of God that asked him to break from his familiar past and to abandon himself to an adventure of a new life unknown to him.
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
Indeed, listening is the first attitude of faith. No wonder the first commandment of God, for Jews, is Shema Yisrael (Hear, O Israel). The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! That’s the centre of Jewish morning and evening prayer. Abraham is a symbol of that person who opens the door of his life to God’s word and in obedience responds to it. That’s why the gospel of this Sunday invites us to listen: “This is my Son… listen to him!” It means, if you want to shine in the glory of heaven, place your trust in this man Jesus; though he looks so ordinary have faith in him. In a way, faith is holding out your hand to Jesus, like a child to its mother, and say I trust you –lead me.
A grace to ask
So centred onto ourselves, and preoccupied with our needs, listening becomes extremely hard. That’s how we miss to perceive even the daily transfigurations that God flashes in our life.
Why not make a Lenten effort by looking back into my life, identify the transfigurations that have taken place and say, thank you Lord?
Pray for the grace of listening so that liberated from obsession with myself I may open my life to God and to others.
This week’s mission
We carry in our thoughts and prayers those who may be actually experiencing trying moments, that the Lord may console them with little flashes of his loving presence in their lives. Don’t forget Lenten charity; pass this word to someone else.
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