Saturday, February 16, 2008

A constant state of Transfiguration

Second Sunday of Lent, February 17, 2008:

“ [Jesus] was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” Take a moment to take in that sight. What must it have been like for the disciples to see something so incredible – Jesus is transfigured, glorified, wrapped in the mantle of God’s wonder – all in the sight of these simple fishermen, Peter, James and John.

As we enter into our Second full week of our Lenten journey, our liturgy gives us a reminder that our spiritual practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving are not meant to bring us down – but that they have glory as their goal; the same glory that the disciples experienced on the mount of Transfiguration. We remember that while we focus so much on the Cross during this season, it is a Cross that leads to the ultimate glory.

For Peter, James and John, this moment of Transfiguration was a defining moment in their lives. Up until now, they had seen Jesus in normal, everyday ways. Yes, He was a teacher unlike any they had ever experienced up until that point, but He had not yet really revealed His divinity to them. In this moment they saw Him in a new and spectacular way; they experienced this miraculous presence of Moses and Elijah; they heard most wondrously the very voice of God echoing from Heaven, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” And, from this moment, everything was different. From this moment, they began to see Jesus in a different light.

And it was an experience they would never forget. We know this from the Second Letter of Peter, where St. Peter writes, “With our own eyes we saw his greatness. We were there when he was given honor and glory by the Father, when the voice came to him from the Supreme Glory, saying, ‘This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased!’ We ourselves heard this voice coming from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain.” This letter was written some 35 years after Jesus’ resurrection; just a short while before St. Peter would also be crucified. He remembered this moment until the end.

While we may not have had quite the experience that Peter, James and John did; hopefully, we too have had some experience of transfiguration in our own lives. Hopefully, we have also had moments when, even for a split second, we seem to glimpse a reality beyond this one. These are moments when for an instant we see beyond the ordinary to something extraordinary. These are the moments of transfiguration in our own lives – times when like Peter, James and John we are overwhelmed by an incredible awareness of God’s true presence in our midst.

For me, the Eucharist is this moment of transfiguration par excellence. We gather in this church around this simple table and present mere bread and wine. And just as amazingly as on that mountain, it is transformed in our midst, transfigured into the very living presence of God. We begin with elements that are common, ordinary, mundane. We end up with something heavenly, extraordinary and miraculous. If our hearts and our spirits are well enough attuned; if we listen carefully, we too may hear a heavenly voice say, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

The problem is that too often we no longer believe that these experiences are real. Perhaps we forget that they have happened. Perhaps we close our selves off to the heavenly realm – only allowing ourselves to accept what can be seen, touched and verified. How sad this is. The reality is that Jesus is constantly revealing Himself to us. When our eyes our opened we begin to see that we live in a near constant state of Transfiguration. But, we are usually too busy or otherwise occupied to notice. We have stopped our hearts from hearing Him; seeing Him; allowing ourselves to ascend that mountain.

Jesus is calling us all today to leave this world behind; to ascend the holy mountain with Him. Jesus wants us to walk away from all of the earthly distractions that keep us from seeing His presence all around us. He wants to take us up to a high mountain alone with Him as he did with Peter, James and John. Our Lenten challenge is to shed away the things that blind us from being witnesses to Jesus’ miraculous presence all around us – so powerfully in the Eucharist, but also in our families, among our friends, in the faces of the homeless, the poor, the needy – everywhere we look, Jesus is there if our eyes our opened.

Let us close with the words of our opening prayer, “Lord, open our hearts to the voice of your word and free us from the original darkness that shadows our vision. Restore our sight that we may look upon your Son.”

Yes, Lord, restore our sight that we may always look upon your Son.

May God give you peace.

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