On the second Sunday of Lent each year, the gospel is always about the Transfiguration of Jesus, of which we have several accounts in the Gospels. Today’s account is from St. Luke and his community. Once again, we read of Jesus inviting Peter, James, and John to climb a mountain, and join him in prayer. This means that they would have been close in proximity to Jesus while he was in prayer! We are told that Jesus was praying, which seemed to be quite a familiar scene to the apostles, who accompanied him. Meanwhile, it is very good to keep in mind that the mention of MOUNTAINS in Scripture is not just by chance; mountains are places of revelation, of profound stillness, within conversation and enlightenment, caused by The Divine. This time, however, something out of the ordinary happened; the veil was lifted, and they got a glimpse of the divinity of Jesus. Moses and Elijah appeared with him, and they were talking together.
Before we go any further, let’s just pause for a moment! Often in religious art, the Transfiguration is portrayed with some distance between the Apostles and the action with Jesus. However, when we look not only at the words but into the words of Scripture, we can safely conclude that the Transfiguration happened right among them! The apostles were privy to Our Lord’s conversation with Moses and Elijah, and they were chatting about the coming Passion and Death of Jesus! Notice, that the apostles were very tired: were they dreaming? Why were they tired? Too much work to do? Or was their sleepiness a sign that there ‘faith-insight’ was getting tired? Questions like: ‘What is this following Jesus all about? Is it just too much to bear?’ If these were some of their questions, they surely could well be some of our own questions too! So, often when we invest ourselves into a project, there are times, when it all becomes too heavy….’I just can’t go on!’ Then suddenly there is light at the end of the tunnel! There is a purpose, there is a reason, this is the truth, and it is real! We are not finished with this yet; one more aspect to take note of: Can we ask the question as to what was going on inside the apostles as they were experiencing this Transfiguration? I deliberately say THIS because in the Gospels there are other kinds of Transfigurations. In order for us to arrive at some understanding of what was going on inside the apostles at this Transfiguration, we could do well to ask ourselves ‘what has gone on inside ourselves’ during times of Transfiguration in the past? Now, if we say, ‘Oh, I am not holy enough to experience this’, that is incorrect! Look at the track record of Peter, James and John! If it was good enough for them, it is good enough for us! Was your transfiguration experience a time when your Baby was born into this world! Was it a time through deep conversation that an inner conversion of self-had taken place, and the black hole that you were in was now filled with light? Was it a time when you were present with a precious loved one who was dying? Then suddenly, the atmosphere in the room changes, you can feel this in your stomach, in your head, and time seems to pause, you feel that someone else is in the room…..maybe the beloved partner of the dying person, who had died years before? Maybe, if the dying person’s pet dog is on the bed during all of this, and suddenly stands up, ears pricked, and smartly walks down to the end of the bed, and lovingly watches their owner. Maybe at the same time as all of this, your family member who was dying, suddenly and momentarily moves in the bed; her face breaking into a youthful smile at her beloved who is visiting her; is that light at the end of the tunnel? Now, if you have been present in the room during this transfiguration, the feeling can be: ‘Let’s contain this renewed and warm sense of family!’ Your stomach may feel unknotted, or a warm and gentle breeze brushes past the cheeks on your face! A time when all stops; a moment of timelessness exists, the ambience within the room is gentle light………’we want to encase it, we want to hold onto this glimpse of peace, love and warmth. This can be a preparation to pass into the loving embrace of God, accompanied by the one who provoked the all-embracing smile of happiness……then, all returns to what it was, but not as it was, because we have experienced transfiguration, and we can never go back; this experience is the new normal! It does something special IN us!
Back into the Gospel story, we see Peter, as usual, was right there with a suggestion: This scene is so beautiful in every aspect, which he wanted to build some kind of accommodation, so that they could continue to live there and contain what had happened. Moses and Elijah disappeared, however, and in the midst of some sort of misty cloud, they heard the Father’s voice announcing ‘this is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him’. Everything then returned to normal, and the apostles kept the event a secret for a long time after it happened. Could they return to normal? The Apostles were also changed. However, what effect did that special event have on their minds and understanding of Jesus, and of the Mission entrusted to him by His Father? What can we learn from this event today? Food for thought!
In the Scriptures, there are many references in the Old and New Testament about the significance of Revelations on top of mountains. Some of these special occasions would most certainly be the encounter that Moses had with The Lord God YHWH on Mt.Sinai. The very place where God initiated the Covenant with his people, and gave them the Ten Commandments or Decalogue (Ten Words) as a guide for them. Remember Mt.Nebo? The place where Moses and the chosen people viewed the Promised Land?…it was the Mountain where the promises made by the Lord God were fulfilled. Of course, Mt.Calvary, the place of the Lord’s Cross; so closely linked to Mt.Tabor, the Mountain in today’s Gospel.
Mountains are places of revelation, they are places of deepened insight; it’s where we can come to that stillness within a prayer-filled moment. It is that kind of experience which we, like the Apostles would like to have captured, so that the pervading influence would continue. I am sure that there have been times of ‘stillness’ in our own lives, when the feeling and sense of ‘at-one-ness’ with God, and those around us, enable us to know deep in our being, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Moments like that, we too want to contain. This precious moment can give us a real glimpse of hope. We do not need to climb mountains physically to experience this, but every now and then it does happen, if we allow ourselves to hear what is being said to us in the stillness of the moment; in that special place and moment which is our personal mountain top. Food for thought, eh?
Hopefully this second week of Lent will encourage us to see once again, the need and time for ‘prayer’ in our lives, and a hunger for the Scriptures to nourish us. The biggest challenge is finding the time and space to do it! It is only when we, STOP and LOOK, can we really LISTEN! Can we see the saving hand of God in our lives, and in the lives of our community? This silent space enables us to have that moment when we too can be changed – transfigured by hearing the words in our hearts, that we are in fact the “Beloved” of God. This ability to see and hear, causes us to reverence, respect, forgive and love each other in a renewed way even more, because we are fortified by Christ’s love…..food for the journey as companions of each other in Christ.
Let us pray……
We give thanks to God, our Father, for the glory of his transfigured Son: we are offered the invitation to reflect him as in a mirror and be continually transformed: this great offer is given to us at Baptism, confirmed in the Spirit at Confirmation, and sustained by the Bread of life, and listening to God’s Word with our bodies, our minds and our hearts. We make this prayer through Christ Our Lord. Amen