Gen 12:1-4a; II Tim 1:8b-10; Mt 17:1-9
There is a story of a father trying to explain Lent to his ten-year-old son. At one point, the father said, “You ought to give up something for Lent, something you will really miss, like candy.” The boy thought for a moment, then asked, “What are you giving up, Father?” “I’m giving up liquor,” the father replied. “But before dinner you were drinking Bud light beer,” the boy protested. “I gave up hard liquor” his dad said, “Bud light is not hard liquor” To which the boy replied, “Well then, I think I’ll give up hard candy.”
Welcome to 2nd Sunday of Lent! The common theme of today’s readings is transformation. The first reading describes the transformation of a pagan patriarch into a believer in the one God. His name will be transformed from Abram to Abraham and his small family into a great nation. All Abram has to do is to obey the Lord God’s command, and he does so.
The second reading, taken from St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy, explains the type of Lenten transformation expected of us. We are transformed when we recognize the hand of a loving, providing and disciplining God behind all our hardships, pain and suffering and try our best to grow in holiness by cooperating with the grace of God given to us through Jesus and his Gospel.
In the Transfiguration story in today’s Gospel, Jesus is revealed as a glorious figure, superior to Moses and Elijah. The primary purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration was to allow Him to consult His Heavenly Father in order to ascertain His plan for His Son’s suffering, death and Resurrection. The secondary aim was to make his chosen disciples aware of His Divine glory, so that they might discard their worldly ambitions and dreams of a conquering political Messiah and might be strengthened in their time of trial. On the mountain, Jesus is identified by the Heavenly Voice as the Son of God. Thus, the transfiguration narrative is a Christophany, that is, a manifestation or revelation of Who Jesus really is.
What makes the transfiguration in today’s gospel so important for the disciples? They thought they knew Jesus. They walked with him. They ate with him. They saw him heal. They heard him preach. Yet they were largely unaware of how much of Jesus they did not see. In the transfiguration, they receive a glimpse of Jesus’ glory, a flash of his brilliance which normally they did not see. In the transfiguration, they were confronted with the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection which they had not begun to anticipate. The transfiguration told the disciples that Jesus was more than they had ever imagined, that as much as they knew about him, there was even more that they did not know.
This experience of the transfiguration provides us with a model of discipleship. In our lives, we must claim the things that we can see, the things that are visible. But at the same time, we must remember that there are many things that we do not see. The model for discipleship is then a combination of wisdom and humility: of wisdom to know what is visible, of humility to remember that there is even more that we do not understand.
You and I must use this model of discipleship every time we interact with people who are different than us, people of a different race, nationality, or sexual orientation. There are things about all of all people which we can clearly see. But we must also remember that there are parts of every person which we do not see. It is only by humbly remembering what we do not see that we can enter into honest dialogue and deeper understanding.
This model of discipleship lastly is crucial as we deal with the reality of evil in our lives. As followers of Christ, we believe that all good gifts come from God. So whenever we are blessed in any way, we rightly claim that this is a sign of God caring and loving us. But when we experience evil in our life, we must humbly admit that we do not understand its presence. We cannot explain why the innocent suffer, why millions of people die from disease and natural disasters. We do not understand, we cannot see the reason or the meaning of evil. It is better to claim that we do not see, than to adopt explanations that warp the goodness and love of God for us.
So, today let us pray for wisdom and humility. A disciple of Jesus is called to follow him in wisdom and in humility: in the wisdom which claims the truth we can see, in the humility which admits that there are other truths that we cannot see. Both wisdom and humility are necessary.