2nd Sunday of Lent – Seeing Things Differently
We hear the story of the Transfiguration each year on the Second Sunday in Lent. We are told that Peter, James and John had a vision of Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. More than a thousand years earlier, Moses encountered God on Mount Sinai in the midst of thunder and lightning and fire and smoke, and he heard the voice of God proclaiming the law. On Mount Horeb the prophet Elijah’s encounter with God was preceded by a strong destructive wind, an earthquake and fire, and finally God was present in a gentle breeze. For Moses and Elijah, God was for real, and God’s involvement with humanity was for real. In this event of the Transfiguration the three disciples encountered Jesus in his full Reality – Jesus who would describe himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life – For the biblical background to the Transfiguration cf. Joel Marcus, THE WAY OF THE LORD, pp. 80-93.
“In your minds (consciousness) you must be the same as Christ Jesus,” Paul reminded the Philippians (2, 5). He had his famous life-changing awakening on the road to Damascus and spent his life preaching the wisdom of Christ and his cross, despite those who deemed the whole thing to foolhardy and harebrained. – 1 Corinthians 1: 17-31. Many thoughtful writers, gifted poets and artists are aware that there’s more to life than meets the eye or test tube. ‘The love that dances from the heart of things, shone out upon us from a human face’, wrote British poet and songwriter Malcolm Guite in a Christmas poem about the love of God being made visible in Jesus.
Jesus took the three disciples to the mountain where he revealed himself to them in the whole new light of his resurrection glory. The vision was meant to sustain them during his passion and death. We need a vision to help us through the ups and downs of life, a voice we can rely on in a world of pretence and prevarication. We need a clear sense of the human and authentic so we can separate truth from falsity, reality from illusion. We need the comfort and assurance promised the disciples by the voice from the cloud that Jesus the Beloved Son is worth listening to. Jesus’ awareness of his Father’s love got him through his passion and death. What is it that gets us through life?
To listen to the Beloved Son is to be assured like Julian of Norwich that ‘All will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well’. Bernard of Clairvaux preached that ‘Peace, joy and gladness’ are ours when we truly listen to the Beloved Son – Sermon 74 on the Canticle of Canticles. Pope Francis opened his encyclical ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ with these words: ‘The joy of the Gospel fills the minds and hearts of those who encounter Christ.’ The Spirit who blows where she or he wills can turn our listening into an encounter. Something like that happened to Thomas Merton one day in the city when the ordinary changed into the extraordinary, and he saw everyone around him ‘shimmering with a deep divine radiance’. ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him’. And let the Spirit do the rest.
Fr. QQ – 2/24/2021