28 February 2010
2nd Sunday of Lent (C) – 28 February 2010
Readings: Gen 15:5-12, 17-18; Ps 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14; Phil 3:20-4:1; Lk 9:28b-36
The Transfiguration event contains the transfiguration of Jesus, the apparition of Elijah and Moses, a message from the Father, and the religious experience of Peter, James and John.
The narrative of the event is rich in symbols. The transfigured Christ prophesies the glory of the Resurrection. The presence of Elijah and Moses solidifies the identity of Christ as Son of God, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and the fullness of the law. The high mountain, the cloud and the voice of God are traditional Jewish symbols of God’s presence.
What about the disciples? They represent us. They fall asleep despite their initial efforts to join Jesus in prayer, oblivious to the great event that is unfolding around them. When they awaken to the great spectacle before them, they could not hide their lack of understanding of what is going on. And then, they are expected to take in everything, keep it a secret until the divine embargo is lifted, and basically put ALL their trust in Jesus.
We are weak yet trusted; unfaithful to our promises yet rewarded with grace beyond telling. This is how God relates to us.
The Transfiguration event is a story about the God who intervenes in history, who makes promises and keeps them. God promises to transform Abraham from a childless wanderer to the father of many nations. God forges a covenant with Abraham to make his descendants God’s people, and He their God.
Another promise of transformation is found in Phil 3,21 (the Second Reading). St. Paul assures us that Jesus “will transform our lowly body to conform with his glorified body”. The Transfiguration event sends the promise of meaningful change, of transformation.
The Transfiguration of Christ is also about us: how we take for granted many times God’s love and grace manifesting in our everyday lives; how we fail to understand, forget, even distrust, all the many signs and invitations for transformation, healing and union with God.
Because of our weak nature and limited understanding, God’s call to transformation needs to undergo a process, a journey. The 40 days of Lent is itself a period of spiritual journey, a going back to God. Our journey of transformation from sin to grace, from death to life, from darkness to light, from the old person to the new, happens for as long as we heed God's voice from the cloud: "This is my chosen Son; listen to him" (Lk 9,35).
Listening to Jesus means not just appreciating the beauty of His words, but making them effective in our lives. It means following his life of prayer and obedience to the Father.
We can never overemphasize the value of prayer. Jesus went up the mountain, not to be transfigured but to pray. Prayer is our connection with God. When we pray we open our hearts to God’s transforming presence.
St. Teresa of Avila writes: “It is impossible for a person who prays regularly to remain in serious sin; because the two are incompatible, one or the other will have to be given up.” The desire to pray is the first step to transformation.
2. Obedience to the Will of the Father.
This is the natural consequence of prayer. By obedience we do not mean the kind exacted by a master to his servant, but the bond of trust between a father and child. The child obeys knowing that his father wants only the best for him.
Let me tell you a story...
After doing so many things and going to many places, an adventurer embarked on his greatest quest so far. He was searching for his life's meaning and for peace of mind. His quest finally brought him to an aged holy man sitting under the shadow of a great tree.
The holy man asked him: "You came looking for meaning and peace mind? Come sit here with me in the shadow of this great tree." The adventurer sat with him.
The holy man continued: "The trouble with modern man is that he fills his life with troubles and confusion. These are represented by his shadow. Man wants to escape his troubles. What does he do? He walks faster. Failing to rid himself of his shadow, he walks even faster, and then runs, which just makes him more tired, confused and angry. And still unable to rid himself of his shadow. Now I would like to ask you: Do you still see your shadow?"
The adventurer looked around and didn't find it. After all, he was sitting under the shade of a great tree.
The holy man concluded: "If you wish to find your life's meaning and acquire peace of mind, surrender yourself to the One who is greater than all your fears."
This is what obedience is about. Problems will still crop up, troubles may still abound, but we do not despair anymore. We are not prevented to life life to the full. For we are under the shadow of the Almighty. St. Paul in Rom 8,31 says: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"
After their mountain experience, Jesus and his closest friends will come down to face the terrible period of suffering and pain that lies ahead. The disciples may not know it yet but God has just given them spiritual food for the difficult journey they have to make. At their lowest moments they will remember this privileged encounter and be sustained with hope.
St. Paul sums up the lesson of the Transfiguration when he says in Rom 8,18: "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us."