Have you ever seen a transfiguration? Have you ever seen a simple thing become a holy thing, like bread become sacred flesh? Have you ever seen a plain face become a radiant beauty when seen through the eyes of love? Have you ever seen a timid person become a lion when circumstances required strength beyond fear? Transfiguration is not an isolated incident, a one-time deal in salvation history. Transfigurations happen around us in surprising places, for those who have eyes to see.
Sitting with my dying friend for many weeks, I watched how a weakening body can become a temple of great holiness. The spiritual strength of a failing mortal life was so much stronger than the physical vigour he once displayed. Before his illness, he scaled mountains for pleasure. In his last illness, he ascended to spiritual heights that astonished me with their breathtaking vistas. Once, he saw the view from the peaks of the Sierras, and hoped to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Now, his vision is on higher places, and the things he sees are lovelier than all earth’s delights. This is transfiguration, as surely as what Peter, James and John saw on that fateful day.
The Scripture (Matthew 17: 1-3)
Jesus took Peter and the brothers, James and John, and led them off up a high mountain. Before their very eyes, the way Jesus looked was suddenly changed from the inside out. His face shone like the sun and his clothing became so white it was dazzling. And, lo and behold, they saw Moses and Elijah there too, in deep conversation with Jesus.
For some people, even for believers, it seems to be a very difficult thing to work up any real trust in the present. From a steady stream of talk shows and public opinion polls, and just casual conversation, it is pretty easy to conclude that most of us probably fear, if not outright believe, that the forces for change that are at work around us right now are largely destructive ones.
Well, the Gospel reading for this week speaks to that. The fact is that the constructive hand of God is as much at work in the forces that are shaping our experience today as it was when the apostles were granted a glimpse beneath the surface, in the Transfiguration, and they saw the Son of God moving in the midst of his people.
And that is the truth of the Transfiguration. Even when hidden Christ is fully and divinely at work in our lives in the ideas, the feelings, the people that affect, change, and transform those lives.
And that means that people as ordinary as you and I can bring to bear on their challenges and problems not only their own efforts and abilities but those of Christ as well. We can never know the full result of our efforts because we can never know the full extent of the powers that are being poured into those efforts through us.
And I think that adds a dimension of depth to our Lenten reflections. It is a great self-discipline indeed to confidently face one’s fears and hesitancy, to not trust them. To place one’s trust instead in that basic sense of rightness, the sacred insight that ‘This is how my life should be, even if it doesn’t feel right for a while’. There is a tremendous power of Transfiguration in such a stance.
Jesus chose to take the lonely, dangerous road to Jerusalem.
We identify our reluctance to take the unknown path.
Jesus was pressured by the disciples to stay away from harm’s way.
We identify our temptation to avoid the path of right and justice.
Jesus knew the powerful ones were conspiring to silence him.
We identify our feelings of fear, when we are weak and vulnerable.
Jesus believed that in facing death, God would be with him.
We identify our call to faith, when facing the trials and hard places of life. Amen.
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