Transfiguration

In the great literary stories, there is always a turning point. Likewise, we experience such moments in our own lives. There are for each of us, times when we are faced with choices, with decisions for ourselves and for others, that hold the potential to be forever life-altering. Today, in the Gospel of the Transfiguration, we witness such a moment in the life of Jesus and his disciples.

If we look first to our reading, we can take from the instruction St. Paul provides the Philippians some guidance in how we might attempt to more closely resemble true followers of Christ. It is easy I believe, to be distracted by all of the earthly concerns and temptations that we encounter daily. Especially challenging are those things that are not inherently bad. It’s obvious that lying, stealing and cruelty separate us from Jesus. We can be reasonably sure we are able to avoid them. What Paul seems to be speaking of are those things which we need, to some degree, like food, rest and pleasure in the company of others, but that can insidiously and subtly begin to crowd Christ out of our lives and our hearts.

When I first “came back” to the Church, the things that were starkly opposed to my growing relationship with Christ were the easiest to begin to eliminate. At first, that felt like enough. For quite a long time, I held onto a sense of pride in my ability to convert to this newfound love of Christ completely.

I eventually became aware, as I think many of us do, that my relationship with God, through Christ, had stymied. I struggled with why that could be when it seemed that I was doing all the “right” things. Luckily, that came just a short time before my annual retreat to a hermitage. I set, as my intention for the weekend, the desire to see what- spiritually- was causing me to feel stuck.

I’d like to be able to tell you that in those three days of solitude and prayer I experienced a clear answer. That wasn’t how God chose to respond. Instead, I spent the retreat uncomfortable, restless, and generally out of sorts. I was dissatisfied with the spiritual reading I’d brought. It was too cold and wet to walk in the woods, as is my custom on retreat. I was unhappy with the food I’d brought with me. More than once, I seriously contemplated giving up and driving home early. The only thing I managed to feel good about was that I’d been able to journal the experience and get some knitting done.

Some months later during Lent, I was spending some time reflecting on my still immovable sense of distance from Jesus, and read through those journal entries. Not long after, this account of the Transfiguration from Luke, made me rethink that retreat. For the disciples with Jesus on that mountain, the Transfiguration was uncomfortable. It challenged them. It was a turning point in their knowledge of, and relationship with, Jesus. I began to consider that this may have been what my retreat offered me, albeit on a less grand scale than the appearance of Moses and Elijah and Jesus is his shining white robes.

Again, I dove into the memories of that weekend in my journal. I realized that I had never let go of the habits of my old life before allowing Christ back into it. When I faced difficulty, I was still turning to earthly comforts. I wasn’t just eating because my body needed nutrition; I was eating to comfort, to sooth and to distract. I wasn’t seeking the woods to feel closer to a Creator God; I was dissatisfied because I didn’t feel close to God the moment I arrived, and I was bored and didn’t want to patiently wait for him. I wanted the books I chose to give me the answers that only God could provide.

This is how transfiguration works in most of our lives. Few of us will experience frequent, or indeed any moments as dramatic as Peter, John, and James did on that mountain. I have learned that the smaller, nearly unnoticeable moments of disquiet are worth looking at more closely. When we feel irritable, angry, and sad, what are we turning to for comfort? What things in our lives that have good, healthy purpose most of the time are we relying on instead of God? Lent is an especially appropriate time to reevaluate. Perhaps for you, taking a moment or two each day to make notes in a journal about where you are looking to draw comfort will shed light on areas in which you have room to grow ever closer to Christ.

 Lisa Amos

Pastoral Associate 

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