Second Sunday of Lent March 12, 2017
Genesis 12, 1-4 + Psalm 33 + 2 Timothy 1,8-10 + Matthew 17, 1-9
St Peter and St William Churches in Naples, FL
The old adage, “What you see is what you get” does not always hold true. Until that day on a hill top, all those men had been seeing was a man who had excited and inspired them with talk of a new age and some wonderful signs they could not fathom. But, he always looked like one of them. Then something happened. Six days after talk of his violent death which they refused to accept, six days after Peter answered a question he posed about who people said that he was, something happened to those men. Some like to wonder and propose that this was something that happened to Jesus, a significant moment in his life when he became more deeply aware of his calling. For me, that’s all very fine, but it leaves me and those apostles as spectators. I would rather think and ponder the idea that this is really something that happened to those apostles, people who were following Jesus but not quite sure what it was all about and where it would lead.
Jesus did not become something on that mountain that he had never been before. He was always filled with the glory of God. He did not change and become something new, but the disciples did. They began to see. It is not as though they had been blind, but now they had their vision corrected, so to speak. Their blindness was removed. They saw someone capable of revealing the beauty of God’s holiness who looked like them and like their neighbor from Nazareth, like their companion and friend, Jesus. What I believe is important to understand with this text is simply this: The transfiguration is more about us than it is about Jesus. If something happened to him on that mountain, he never told anyone about it. He simply came down and went back to his calling. Something did happen to those disciples, and it held them together and strengthened their faith leading them through the passion and death of Jesus Christ preparing them to accept and understand the resurrection. I think that without this experience on that mountain, they may never have managed to believe.
What they were discovering through their relationship and by their experiences with Jesus was that they could see things in different ways. Now for them it was not so much a matter of what they saw, but how they saw it. It is the difference of seeing with physical eyes and seeing with the eyes of faith. As long as we see only with physical eyes, we will always be looking for love, restless for life, longing for joy, bound by guilt, and in fear of death.
When we proclaim this Gospel early in Lent, we have the time and opportunity to pay attention to what we see and how we see. It is a matter of deciding if what we see is all we get or whether our seeing will bring us face to face with the mystery of God’s presence all around us. Transfigured eyes do not deny or ignore the circumstance of our life and our world. We still see poverty, racism, injustice, hateful behavior that springs out of angry lives. Yet we also see people like Mother Theresa, who stands in the midst of the most horrible poverty with the shining face of God moving countless people to respond to the helpless people trapped in that poverty. We see heroic men and women who risk their lives for the safety and rescue of nameless brothers and sisters they may never see again. I learned this standing in a bombed out building in 1995 in Oklahoma City. Everywhere you looked there was the ugliness of a man’s hatred, innocent suffering people, and lives shattered forever. What I saw was people rushing into danger to help and the hands of God pulling people out of that wreckage, and that’s what I remember most. That’s Transfiguration.
We all have had those moments; perhaps not as dramatic or historical, but we have had those times when there was more to see than the physical eye could see, when a neighbor or a friend, a colleague or a teacher suddenly seemed to reflect the glory of God to us and remind us that there is always more, that things and people are not always what they seem to be, and that what you see is not always what you get. Most of the time it’s better!
Having passed these for forty days in prayer, fasting, service, and self-denial, may we be Transfigured so that all that we say and all that we do may reflect the glory of God who has called us in children.