Last Sunday after Epiphany
After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.Mark 9:2-9
Today we come to the end of the Christmas/Epiphany Season, and Wednesday begins Lent. During these past weeks, we have been witness to the start of the Ministry of Jesus and some of the miracles but today, as Thomas Aquinas put it, the greatest of miracles the Transfiguration. Although not the Feast of the Transfiguration, that is, in August, we have the story of the Transfiguration and an essential bridge between Christmas/Epiphany and Lent/Easter. Just like with the Feast of the Presentation, today we turn our gaze from the cradle and face the cross.
I have written before about the role of John the Baptist being the connecting point between the Old Covenant and the New, and today, we witness Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. The vision we see on that mountain top is Jesus, joined by Moses, the Lawgiver, and Elijah, the last of the Prophets. In this vision, we see the completion of the law and the prophets, as Jesus will say later.
The Transfiguration is a pivotal moment; this is the point where human nature meets God. It is the meeting place of the temporal and the eternal. Jesus is the point of connection and becomes the bridge between heaven and earth. In this feast, we also see the uniqueness of Jesus. Jesus is not only the fulfillment of the law and the prophets; he is not to be equated with the spiritual stature of Moses and Elijah. But, as unique as this is, Jesus does not want this made known. The divinity of Christ is known only to those to whom it is revealed. Knowledge of Jesus’ divinity is a revelation that comes as a gift from God in God’s own way and in God’s own time.
In this feast, we find a powerful word to us to take up our cross and follow Christ but not in a personal way but in a communal way, a way that seeks to transform the world through the power of divine love, a powerful, assertive love. This divine love will ultimately change the world through a fierce pursuit of social and personal righteousness. The Transfiguration is a story that calls us to affirm the ultimate truth that the nonviolent way of Jesus is truly the way of salvation, healing, and eternal life.
But the theme of Transfiguration is as much about us as it is about the world. The Transfiguration of Jesus was personal; there was a change that took place on that mountain top. Mark places this story at the very center of his Gospel; it is equal distance between the birth story and the Resurrection story. The Transfiguration story is a reminder that before we can ever hope to participate in the transformation of the world, we need to be willing to allow a transformation of ourselves.
Lent is a time of spiritual transformation and Transfiguration. Lent is a time when spiritually, we climb that mountain and see the divinity of Jesus. But Lent is also a time for us to see the humanity of Jesus. Jesus chose to become human to show us a new way of life, a new way of living that was not as much about sacrifice for our sake but a way of love for all of creation. During Lent, we follow the way of the cross, we follow the way of love and see Jesus at his most human. We encounter the love that God has for all of humanity, without condition on full display.
The story of the Transfiguration, the story of Lent, the story of the Gospel is the story of love and, as Bishop Michael Curry puts it, “The way of Jesus is the way of love and the way of love and change the world.”
This Lent, let us follow the way of love and let it transform us, and then, maybe we can transform the world.