Saturday, 7 March 2009

The transfiguration (Mk 9:2-10)

This Sunday's gospel is the story of the transfiguration, as narrated by Mark. The first thought that came to my mind when I saw it, is that it seems a bit strange so in the beginning at lent. We just about got used to this fasting season, now underway for about a week and a half, and suddenly we have Jesus there in all His glory.

However, having a quick look back, we see that in the previous story Jesus was saying that "Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again" (Mk 8:31). So we have there a brief prophesy of Jesus on what is to happen in the near future. He explains them how His glory is going to come to pass, through obedience, subjection and rejection as He completely gives Himself up for our sakes to be sacrificed. However, the disciples didn't really understand it, as we can see in St. Paul his reaction and Jesus subsequent rebuke: "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men." (Mk 8:33)

Now six days later Jesus shows another side of Himself as the three apostles who are with Him on the mountain get a glimpse of His glory. It was when He was alone with them when he transfigured "and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white" (Mar 9:3 NAS).

I like to take that point out of the reading, especially as it is very appropriate for lent. In lent we are journeying towards the Easter. It is the time in the desert, a time in which Jesus prepared himself for His ministry. He prayed and fasted during this time, and so do we, so we might be prepared when Easter comes. But lent is not only about denial, it is much more. Christianity is not a religion of separate events, but a complete way of living our live to the full. During lent we deny ourself things so we can focus better on God. In this way we become closer to God, and therefore (the word lent comes from Spring) indicates that it is also a growth into new life. Like we see it around us in nature during spring, where the first hints of green are appearing on some tries, and flowers will start to come up out of the ground... it is a time of renewal, of a fresh start!

Jesus transfigured in front of them when they were alone. I think that we can take an important lesson from this, that we need time to spend with Jesus alone, so He can show us a glimpse of His glory. He took the three disciples with Him, and so He invites us personally to come with Him. When we spend time with Him in prayer, like Jesus spend time in prayer in the desert, He will show us a glimpse of His glory, of His love. When we follow Him up to this high place, which can take a good bit of perseverance on our part, we meet Him as He really is, we find ourselves gazing into the depths of love itself... everything else around us seems to disappear, and we find ourself suspending in a timeless void, opening our hearts fully to this silent love...

Peter did not know what to say... and this is I think the natural reaction when we are really finding Our Lord in prayer... there might even be this sense of holy fear... but it is only in Him that we can find these moments of fullness which nothing else can give us...

But then off-course, these moments of revelation of such Glory are not the ordinary experience of prayer. Like I have said so often we would become prayer junkies if it did. Generally is is a hard climb up to a mountain of which we don't know how high it is, and we can easily make the mistake to think that through our own effort we can reach it quicker...

We can also see that after this short period of revelation the cloud comes and overshadows the apostles. After the cloud leaves everything is back to normal, and they only saw Jesus... they went down the mountain, steering the way to Jerusalem...

I belief, or actually I know, that if we spend time with Jesus in prayer He will show us the way. It might not always be easy, and sometimes we might feel we go nowhere, either having lost the path climbing up or lost our way in the cloud. But Jesus will guide us if we trust in Him and completely surrender our will to Him. He might not always appear glorious, but is always Jesus, and He will permanently change our lives once we open our heart to Him!

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