Listen

It seems to me that every year during Lent, there’s a different Gospel passage that strikes a chord in me in a powerful way. Every year it’s a new one, and every year it taps into the particular circumstances of my spirituality that are unique in this time of my life. Maybe you’ve experienced something similar.

This year, it’s the reading from Luke in which we learn of the experience of Peter, John, and James and their witness to the Transfiguration of Christ. Transfiguration means a change of form, metamorphosis. Yet, Jesus does not change into something he was not before, and the disciples are not simply spectators but participants in this event. We, too, are participants, but only to the extent we are willing.

We all experience seasons of change, from small adaptations to our habits and daily expectations to large, lifechanging events, the good ones and the difficult ones. Like Christ, we too are more than we appear. Beloved of God, chosen by Him to forever draw closer, His desire to reveal to us the glorious dignity of our identities as His own, we don’t need to transform into something else, but that we need to allow the reality of who we are to shine forth.

St Gregory Palamas says, “Jesus did not become what he was not already, but appeared to the disciples as he was, opening their eyes, giving sight to those who were blind.”  This story is not only about the Transfiguration of Christ, but also the transformation, the transfiguration, of the disciples. The transfiguration shows us the perfect beauty of our image. The glorified Christ is the model and prototype of who we are and who we are to become. The transfiguration reveals our origin and our fullness.

Often, when we read this passage, we focus on what is seen: the change in appearance of Jesus’ face, clothes that become dazzling white, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, the glory of Christ, and the overshadowing cloud. These, no doubt, are central to the transfiguration. We emphasize the light of transfiguration to exclusion of the voice of transfiguration. We are looking, but are we listening?

Throughout this whole pivotal event, the only instructions the disciples receive is to “listen.” Listening is central to transfiguration. A voice came from the cloud and said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”. If listening is so important, why does Luke record no words or teaching from Jesus? Jesus is silent. So it must be about more than words, instructions, and lessons. Listening always is. True listening is an interior quality, a way of being. It is more about the heart than the ears. And it is more about silence than words. Ultimately, listening is about presence.

The disciples are being encouraged to be present, be open, be receptive to the One who is already and always present to you. Listening creates an opening through which the transfigured Christ enters and transforms us. Impactful and loving listening invites us to be attentive and to let go of the things that deafen us. Anything that is too distracting, good or bad, or destroys or limits presence is a form of deafness.  Lent offers us an opportunity to intentionally and deliberately focus on “giving up” those things that cause our own unique deafness. There are those things that are inherently unhealthy for us, both emotionally and spiritually such as:

  • ¨ Holding on to the past, with its guilt, sins, regrets, disappointments, sorrows and losses
  • ¨ Perfectionism (in itself a kind of arrogance), self-doubt and self-hatred
  • ¨ Fear, anxiety and the resulting need to control
  • ¨ Competition, comparison, expectation and judgments
  • ¨ Anger, resentment, condemnation

There are those things, too, which are not necessarily wrong or unhealthy, but when we allow them to distract us, we begin to depend on them for comfort and solace in ways that lead us to stop relying on God for those things, such as the newest “miracle” diet, enthusiasm for a sports team, chocolate or wine, or binge watching our favorite shows on Netflix. Perhaps even our relationships with the people in our lives. Lent inspires us to let it go for a time, so we might discover if it’s crowding out our ability to listen to God, to be present to Him.

Listening is a spiritual practice. It opens us to healing, reconciliation, and union. Ultimately, listening takes us back to the Mount of Transfiguration.

Lisa Amos
Director of Mission and Ministry

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