We move into the second week of Lent. And, if you are off to a good start, bravo! Like his apostles, the Teacher has much to tell you on the mountaintop. If you have yet to begin the climb, you can play catch-up. Jesus will toss you a rope and pull you up.
All three of the synoptic Gospels tell the story of the experience on the mountaintop. It must have been a HUMDINGER for Jesus, and even more an important memory for the early followers of Jesus. It was about their transformation and OURS!
A Greek word used to describe the event on the mountain in today’s Gospel is related to “metamorphosis.“ It’s what a caterpillar goes through in the journey to butterfly. The word means beautiful as well as good or truthful. The transfiguration on the mountain was a radiant, fabulous… experience. Each Evangelist has different words to describe it. Our brothers and sisters of the Eastern churches celebrate this event in greater depth than we of the West because they see the process of “divinization” as a goal for all Christians. Therefore Jesus simply reveals this possibility to his three closest collaborators. What he has, they can have.
I remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s great speech on the road to Memphis. “We’ve got some difficult days ahead,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop … Like anybody I would like to live a long life, but I’m not worried about that now…and I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man… and mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” That is metamorphosis! Only God pulls that off.
Lent focuses on the journey from our baptisms to glory. The rite of Baptism contains a promise of glory when one is incorporated into Christ. Today’s Gospel account of the Transfiguration tells us how this was accomplished for Jesus, and how it will also take place for us. I don’t know what Dr. King’s personal mountaintop was like, whether it was a special place, moment, and time. But, when he left there, he was a changed man. Terror of death was gone. Self-doubt and hesitance was changed into assurance, conviction, dedication and vision. He knew where he was going. And he knew where God wanted him to go.
But we all get mountaintops when we are paying attention. And they change us. Christian life is a transforming process. About being transformed, and transforming the world we live in. The disciples wake up long enough to get a brief glimpse of Jesus’ glory, to give us a foretaste of what is to come after the trials. Unlike the disciples who climbed the mountain that day…we don’t have a reason to keep our mouths shut. With Peter, we don’t build little booths to shelter God’s glory … Or capture the moment on our cell phone. We can’t collect those peak experiences in a scrapbook. Rather use them to build a Church, a community of people enlightened by God’s glory, so it can be seen throughout the world.
Join us Wednesday “Soup and Studies,” meatless Fridays, Stations of the Cross, Confessions and Saturday food distributions with St. Vincent de Paul.
A gentle week,
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM