Genesis 22: 1-18; Romans 8: 31-34; Mk 9: 2-10
We know the Transfiguration story well: Jesus taking Peter, James and John alone up the mountain, a traditional place for a revelation of God. Jesus is transfigured in light with Moses and Elijah, revealed to them as the Son of God. It is in-breaking of God – theophany – a manifestation of God’s presence. More particularly, it is a Christophany, a manifestation of the identity of Christ as the Messiah who was to suffer, die and be resurrected. The lives of Peter, James and John would never be the same again. To be sure, this is “a mountain top experience.” It is to strengthen them against the day of the Lord’s death when their faith would be shaken. They can look back, remember and be strengthened.
Moments such as these are touchstones to which we look back and can say, ‘God was there.’ We have a clear sense of Mystery, of what the poet’s Wordsworth calls “a sense of something far more deeply inter-fused.” In other words, there is more there than meets the eye. Moments like this take our breath away. Words fail. Indeed, Mark tells us Peter, “hardly knew what to say.” The challenge, of course, is to say nothing, but to listen to the voice from the cloud: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.”
They come down from the mountain. Their experience has also been transfigured. Jesus’ transfiguration is also their own. The challenge for us is to believe that God continues to reveal God’s self, that is, to break into our ordinary lives in great and little ways. We recognize and remember the big ones. Our challenge is to recognize and listen to the little ones. For example, on Tuesday, I was I saw a patch of brilliant yellow crocus. I was amazed, this on February 20th! Two days later I saw the first of the daffodils. I thought ‘It is easier in the Spring to recognize the signs of God’s care breaking in on us, for us (Romans). We know that nature is renewing itself and that Easter is coming. We dare to believe that Christ will renew us and give new life to something in us that needs to be reborn, just like those daffodils popping up.
But first some part of us must die and be reborn, renewed. That’s the Lenten discipline. Paying attention to the signs of God’s care for us is one of the challenges of Lent. It is a form of asceticism. It takes discipline to stop, to notice, to listen, to see in these small moments signs of God’s care for us. For example, on Friday evening, I was driving down Beaumont Avenue on that beautiful evening — almost like a May evening in late February — and I saw a group of people socializing on one of those large, beautiful verandas. They looked like they were so enjoying themselves on this breath of spring night, a breath that brings new life. Later in the evening when I returned, they were still there. I reflected later: this is the communion of saints. This is a foretaste of heaven, of what heaven will be like – all the time! Here, we get only glimpses. These are transfigured moments to savor. They give us hope. They give us, again as the poet Wordsworth says, “Food for future years” against the day when we, like Jesus, we must face trials and carry our crosses. The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar says, “God is not only with us, as in the Old Testament’s Emmanuel, but is ultimately ‘for us’ his chosen ones.” He has given us “everything he is and has.” It is what his theologian Karl Rahner calls “God’s self communicating love.” God gives this most especially in the self-communicating love we call the Eucharist, Holy Communion as well as in the small moments of our lives, transfiguring them. Let’s try in this week, as we move further into these sacred days of Lent, to notice and to listen. And thank God for them!