[2ndSunday of Lent, Year C, Feb 21, 2016 / Gen 15:5-12, 17-18 / Ps 27:1, 7-8a, 8b-9, 13-14 / Phil 3:17–4:1 / Luke 9:28b-36]
Once I was talking to an elderly man and he said to me, “This world is not as it should be. Something needs to change.”
Have you ever felt like that? Looking at the world around you feel a desire to improve things, to change things. Sometimes it is tempting to believe it is not possible. To think that nothing can be done. But today’s gospel of the transfiguration gives us hope.
Why? Because transfiguration is about change. In fact the Greek word for transfiguration is metamorphosis. Now anyone who has done biology will know that a caterpillar becomes a butterfly through the process of metamorphosis, through a change of form. It is a process, a slow one at times, from egg to lava to pupa but finally what emerges is a beautiful butterfly.
Our whole life is called to be a metamorphosis, a process of constant conversion. How is this possible? Let us learn from Jesus himself by looking at the Gospel of today (Luke 9:28-36).
Jesus takes the three musketeers – Peter, James and John, up the mountain. He takes them to strengthen their faith. St Leo the Great comments, “By changing his appearance in this way he chiefly wished to prevent his disciples from feeling scandalized in their hearts by the cross. He did not want the disgrace of the passion to break their faith.” Jesus is praying and he is transformed. Without prayer there is no transformation! St Paul says, “He will transform our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.” (Philippians 3:21). Wow!
But this is one of the privileges of our union with the Lord, that he will transform us. Jesus is talking to Moses and Elijah who represent the Law and the Prophets respectively.
One old lady I know always prays to Moses when she needs anything. I asked her why and she told me because he is not so busy as no one prays to him so he is a good person to ask for help! But do you know that sometimes we really need to change from a Christianity of mere rules and regulations (the Laws) and seeking visions and apparitions (the Prophets) to the person of Christ. For example going to Mass on Sunday for fear of breaking the Law that you must go, or going because I love Christ and have a dinner date with him! Or even for us priests and religious. Many times here in the Philippines people ask, “You don’t have a wife because it is forbidden?” I always say, “I don’t have a wife not because it is forbidden but I freely choose not to have one.” Anyway I remind them, I have a beautiful girlfriend and a nice photo of her. They usually looked surprised and in that moment I say I will show them the “photo” and then pull out my rosary beads! Yes, the most beautiful woman in the world – Mother Mary!!!
The event of the transfiguration takes place “8 days later.” It took place eight days after Jesus told them about his Passion and death but the number 8 is significant. Some baptismal fonts in Rome have 8 sides. Why? Because number 8 is 7+1. Obvious you say! One week (7 days) plus the first day of a new week. It is the first day of the new creation.
But there is no newness without transformation or transfiguration. What would you like to change? Are there things in us we would like to change? Sometimes we become discouraged and think that we can do nothing. But change starts in each one of us. Like the man who came up to Mother Teresa and asked her what he could do for world peace. She told him to go home and love his family!
What is the secret of the transformation? What do we need to change? Sometimes we don’t know as our vision is clouded. Even we can feel anxiety about where to invest our efforts as the harvest is big and the laborers are few. On the mountaintop a cloud covered the disciples. Their vision too was often clouded and they experienced fear. But in that moment comes the voice of the Father – “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” This is the secret, listen to Jesus! This will change your life from a BC to an AD.
Lord, transfigure us, change us. Teach us how to pray, to listen to your voice. I need to be transfigured. I don’t want to remain a caterpillar all my life. And the Lord may tell us “I made you to be a butterfly. It is time for change…”