[2nd Sunday of Lent – The Transfiguration, March 1, 2015.]
THE Transfiguration, recounted by St Mark in today’s Gospel, served to strengthen the weak hearts and drooping knees of Peter, James and John. They were led to a high mountain and before them Jesus was transfigured. His clothes became dazzling white and in the middle of this spectacular scene Moses and Elijah appear and begin conversing with Jesus. What about? Mark does not tell us but Luke is more revealing!
They “spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem” foretelling his suffering, death and glorious resurrection. The Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) all concur that Christ is the glory of the Father and in him is the fullness of the revelation, both the Old Testament and the New.
The placing of the Transfiguration in Mark’s gospel is immediately after the announcement of Jesus’ Passion and Death. The disciples could not understand the announcement of his suffering or even accept it. They were afraid. As Pope St Leo the Great declared, “The great reason for the transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed.”
And how we long for the same experience of transfiguration, especially in the moments of suffering, in moments of darkness. We easily conclude that those disciples were really lucky to see what they saw and to hear what they heard. And what about us, poverini, the poor ones? But Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever and so are his disciples! Like them we lose trust very easily, when the road gets bumpy, when it starts to become cloudy in our following.
The Father gives us the same advice as he gave the fearful disciples on the cloudy mountain-top, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to Him.” Listen to him even if he is talking about his suffering and death. Trust him! Listen to him when you are lost, when in the darkness of temptation, when fearful of your weakness, when your vision is clouded and you have lost sight of the way. And lo and behold, listening to Jesus in his Word you are enlightened! Transfigured!
If we want to be transfigured we must listen. The key to the transfiguration is listening. Only the one who listens will be transformed from a caterpillar to a butterfly this Lent. Listening helps us grow in a trusting relationship in this God who loves us and who supports us.
I remember a meeting of our community before the World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005 when I was in charge of accommodating 200 people in tents. The weather was terrible, cold, windy and worse of all with torrential downpours. What encouraged me was the help of my dad with his 30 years experience in the military and also the faith of the overall organizer, a German sister in my community. Whenever I shared to her about the worsening situation she would always respond, “If God is for us who can be against us?” And sure enough all the guests survived the unforgettable camping experience!
How important it is to really trust in God. On the US dollar bill it states “In God we trust.” But do we really? Our experience is often like that of the disciples whose faith was shaken in the announcement of the Lord’s Passion. They could not understand and were afraid. It is as if God’s tender care for us is conditional and so when things are going well “He loves me.” But when suffering comes, when we don’t control everything, when we don’t understand and have to wait, we conclude “He loves me not.” But is God’s love for us really inconsistent? Or are we the ones who are just a little bit fickle at times?
Let us listen to the beloved Son this Lent, to trust him even when he talks of his Passion and death. With his disciples when they heard the voice of the Father they fell down afraid. Jesus touched them and said “Rise!” Jesus will not be slow to respond. His touch transfigures moments of fear and darkness. He will not let us down. With his grace we too can become agents of change, able to transfigure the world around us.
Let us journey this Lent with added confidence. Let us wait patiently for the transfiguration in moments of suffering. Surely this is the best training for the Easter experience where we shall share in the suffering and death of Jesus, by hoping and fixing our gaze on the eternal Transfiguration of his Resurrection. Amen.