Last week on the First Sunday of Lent we heard about Jesus' sojourn in the desert and the temptations he faced. It was a revelation and a prediction of our own confrontation with evil, of the temptations we would face during Lent. The transfiguration of Jesus which we have just experienced in the company of Peter, James and John, presents a new aspect of the same reality. Lent is not just a time when we confront evil. This time of penitence is not a gloomy period of torture which the believer imposes on him or herself out of some sort of masochism. Rather, Lent is first the revelation of our real nature and then our concrete experiencing of it somewhere beyond the facade of external appearances. That is what we discover in today's account of Jesus' Transfiguration. Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him. They climb a mountain. From Luke's account we gather the event took place during the night. It was at night that Jesus used to withdraw to a mountain to spend the night in prayer. And Luke tells us that Peter and those with him had fallen into a deep sleep. As Jesus prayed, his whole appearance changed. He is bathed in light. Now resplendent he radiates such an atmosphere of well being that the apostles do not want to leave, they want to set up three tents and settle down comfortably. Suddenly their humanity seems intolerable. Christ's glorified state gratifies all their longings and desires. Pondering this narrative it is easy to see why the early Christian communities attributed such importance to the Transfiguration and why it is one of the essential themes in the spirituality of the oriental Christian churches. The Transfiguration teaches us the meaning of the mystery of death and resurrection. The two cannot be separated or made distinct one from the other. Like Christ we must pass through the portals of death. But this is not confined to the moment of our death, it is lived every day of our lives and particularly during this time of Lent when penitence takes on its full meaning and value vis-a-vis the transfigured Christ.
While the Transfiguration is a luminous manifestation of hope, it also reminds us how we should live Lent. We must turn away from everything that buries us in ourselves, that limits our vision to the things of earth and beclouds our desire to be faithful to the Spirit and impedes the fulfillment of His work in us.
Fr John R. Mulvehill