Life and Soul

Word this Week

‘His face was changed’: The Transfiguration of Christ by Giovanni Bellini

Second Sunday of Lent
Gn 15:5-12 & 17-18; Phil 3:17 – 4:1; Lk 9:28-36 (Year C)

Young children dream of what they might become. Their innocence trusts that everything is possible. Long ago Abram, the father of Israel, left the security of a settled home at the bidding of his Lord. He became a rootless nomad, no longer able to call any place his home. Despite advancing years and the poverty of his existence, he refused to abandon the dream entrusted to him by the God of Israel, that one day he would become the Father of a great nation, and that his wandering would find its rest in a promised land.

Significantly, it was in a dream-like sleep that this promise was renewed and entrusted to Abram as a solemn covenant: “To your descendants I give this land, from the wadi of Egypt to the Great River.”

During Lent let us rekindle within ourselves the promise, the sometimes forgotten dream, of what we might become in Christ Jesus. St Paul touches on this in his letter to the Philippians. He first calls us to repentance, the acknowledgment of the many compromises that sin inevitably brings. More importantly, his focus moves from our failings to the infinite possibilities of the Father’s mercy. “From heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do this by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe.”

What we are called to in Christ is more than a dream; it is the reality that begins here and now with a repentance that entrusts its wretchedness to Christ and the power of his Resurrection.

The Gospel account of the Transfiguration describes an encounter with Jesus intended for us all. Unlike Peter, James and John, we cannot share with them that moment on the mountain long ago. There, in the midst of ordinary lives, their understanding of Christ’s power to change both them and a sinful world was transformed. “His face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men talking to him, Moses and Elijah, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem.”

Essentially the passage sought to describe an experience whose reality was beyond words. It was an encounter that transformed remorse for the past into hope for the future. We can never resign ourselves to what sin has made us. With those first disciples we must acknowledge that our only belonging is with Christ who alone transfigures our wretchedness into copies of his glorious body.