|by Angela Lambert|
February 21st, 2016; 2nd Sunday of Lent
Gospel of Luke 9:28b-36 NAB
Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.
The relationship between Jesus’ divinity and humanity will always be veiled in mystery. However, we do know that God became man so as to share in our experience and thereby conquer our sin and weakness. Jesus provides us the perfect example to follow and the grace to do it. As a result, we can look to this Gospel account as instructive for our own faith journey.
Jesus went up the mountain to pray, a task that required effort and endurance. He took with Him only a few of His closest companions. He spent time alone in prayer persisting even when the apostles fell asleep. During this solitude Moses and Elijah appeared to Him, representing the Law and the Prophets, both of which Jesus would fulfill. They spoke with Him about His mission and the Father overshadowed them in a cloud speaking words of confirmation and encouragement. Peter, John, and James didn’t know what to think or do. Peter offered to pitch tents for everyone not comprehending what was happening but trying to at least offer some kind of service. Christ usually appears humbly in our lives, veiled in His humanity. He does this so well that we too often react with surprise and an awkward response when we awake to moments of His glory.
This experience of light and glory strengthened Christ as well as the apostles for the upcoming darkness and suffering of Calvary. It was an experience so profound that they “fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.” Peter and James would still abandon Christ in His direst moment but later repented at their actions. John alone of the apostles would remain with Jesus at the Cross. Through darkness, disillusionment, and intense pain that confidence in God’s call and the experience of His encouragement strengthened them to persevere.
Conversion tends to be a slow process of turning away from sin and toward Christ on a daily basis. However, during this long road, we sometimes experience a Transfiguration moment wherein God reveals His plan, His mission, or His love for us in a profound and tangible way. St. Paul’s moment occurred on the road to Damascus. St. Peter’s occurred when Jesus appeared to him after His resurrection and asked him three times if he loved Him then called him to feed His sheep. These moments may confirm our call to the Christian faith or they may confirm our call to our vocation.
Mother Teresa began her mission to serve the poorest of the poor after a profound experience in prayer. She had already been a nun for 15 years when, while on a train travelling to the Loreto Convent in Darjeeling for a retreat, she heard the voice of Christ speak to her. Missionary of Charity and postulator of the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of Mother Teresa, Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk recounts in his book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, that,
|“Though she would persist in letting the details remain veiled in silence, she later revealed:
‘It was a call within my vocation. It was a second calling. It was a vocation to give up even Loreto where I was very happy and to go out in the streets to serve the poorest of the poor. It was in that train, I heard the call to give up all and follow Him into the slums.’”
Fr. Kolodiejchuk further records that Mother Teresa considered the date of this mystical experience (September 10, 1946), as the beginning date of, and her entrance into, the Missionaries of Charity. Christ had asked her to “Come, be My light” in the darkness of the poorest of the poor. Jesus continued to speak with her through a gift of interior locutions into the middle of the next year. During this period she presented to Christ her concerns, her happiness serving as a Loreto nun, and her feelings of inadequacy. In her letter to the Archbishop she wrote, “These thoughts were a cause of much suffering – but the voice kept on saying ‘Wilt thou refuse?’” Her love for Jesus could not refuse Him anything and so she said yes to His request.
Mother Teresa had a “Transfiguration moment”. She was thirty-six at the time. The next fifty years of sacrifice and suffering would be motivated by this single call of Christ. She faced many set-backs, rejections, and challenges both materially as well as spiritually. She experienced an interior darkness (meaning lacking in light to see) in which she couldn’t see God or feel the closeness of union that she had enjoyed before. At first she worried that her own sinfulness had caused the feeling of absence. On the contrary however, Fr. Kolodiejchuk records that,
|“With the help of her spiritual directors, she progressively came to grasp that her painful inner experience was an essential part of living out her mission. It was a sharing in the passion of Christ on the Cross – with a particular emphasis on the thirst of Jesus as the mystery of His longing for the love and salvation of every human person.”|
As a result, what seemed a loss at first turned out to be an extraordinary gift. Some saints have been given the stigmata – the physical wounds of Christ. Mother Teresa was given a share in the suffering of Christ’s heart. She could not have done this however, without being firmly rooted in her faith in Christ first. She could look back to that Transfiguration moment on the train and confidently press forward in humility that Christ would bring to perfection the good work He had begun.
When we feel like we can’t see God or we become disillusioned in our vocation or work, rather than ask for another sign, think back to that first call. Remember your Mt. Tabor and the time you saw Christ transfigured in glory. When you feel most near to Christ’s experience of darkness on the Cross (“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”), draw strength from your experience with Him during the Transfiguration.
- Recall and reflect back on a time when you felt the presence of Christ or saw His glory.
- Have you witnessed a mighty deed of His like the apostles when He calmed a storm or cast out demons?
- Did you experience His mercy or love like the Prodigal Son or Peter?
- Were you healed like the blind, lame, and sick in the Gospels?
- Were you stopped in your tracks and knocked down like St. Paul?
- Did you hear Him in “a still small voice” like Elijah?
- Reflect on times of “darkness” when you could not see or feel the presence of Christ?
- Did it cause you to doubt?
- Was Christ still with you even though you couldn’t see it at the time?
- Did it increase your longing for Christ?
- Did it deepen your connection to His experience on the Cross?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Journal about your Transfiguration moment(s) and keep it to look back on during times of darkness.
- Encourage or visit someone struggling or suffering.
- Read the lives of the saints. Read one a day or at least one a week.
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016
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