Second Sunday of Lent B
February 28, 2021
Mark 9: 2-10
By Rev. John Tran
What did the Transfiguration mean for us? For Peter, James, and John, it was certainly a startling event. Perhaps it was meant to give them courage, because Jesus had just announced his passion and death. If so, they seemed to have missed the point. Even if this was its intended meaning, the Transfiguration does something more. It shows how changed Jesus would become after his resurrection. It shows us what happens to our human person when we allow ourselves to follow Jesus in turning upside down the way the world looks on what is valuable and just. It shows us what we will be if we take up our cross and follow Jesus wherever he goes and with whomever he is, we can be transfigured.
A good example of this kind of transfiguration is written about in the novel Les Miserable The first person is the Bishop. On the face of it, the bishop is not a likely candidate to show such a transfiguration. He was born into a noble family, married, lead a life devoted to aristocratic pursuits, then fled France to Italy to escape the French Revolution. It was only after his wife died that he had a conversion and returned to France a priest. Through a chance meeting with Napoleon, he was made a bishop. But instead of assuming the aristocratic way of life of most bishops of the time, he became a person know for welcoming anyone into his home and being devoted to the poor and his ministry to them He was thus transfigured from a superficial life to a life that embodied Christ.
The next transformation was that of Jean Valjean. He was a poor young man sentence to 17 years in prison for stealing a small loaf of bread to feed his niece. He was paroled as a bitter and angry man. He got a meal and a nights lodging with Bishop. And in repayment for that kindness, Jean got up late a night and stole the bishop’s silver plate . The police caught him before dawn and brought him to the bishop to confirm the theft. Instead the bishop told Jean he was glad to see him because Jean had forgotten the silver candlesticks he has also given him. The police were amazed and released Jean. The bishop then told Jean to “use the silver to become an honest man.” This Jean died to an exemplary extent. He too became transfigured into an image of Christ.
So, transfiguration can be contagious. From the complete change in the bishop came the complete change in Jean Valjean. The touch of divinity exists within each one of us as well. God is present within us inspiring us to do good and holy things, and they can change us. What spark of God is within us can ignite the same spark in another. As Father Hubert van Zeller wrote in one of his books, “...we must not only see but look; not only look but point out to others.” Then we see as God sees.
There is a example of this in an incident I recently read about. In Port Arthur, Texas, there is a special school for very sick children, most of whom have few, if any, motor skills. One very sick boy lived at that school, dying little by little. As tragic as that is, that’s not the point of the story. Unfortunately, children get grievously ill every day. This little boy, though, had the good fortune to be living in the same community with some faithful believers who took the Transfiguration story as their own. God’s glory lived in them. They carried it with them wherever they went. A group of these folks joined together to go to this little boy every day and read to him. Since he was slowly dying, unable to move or read for himself, their act of kindness and ministry was the only activity that brought him any comfort. The social workers were amazed. Just being read to by three different women, one every day, transformed that boy. He was transformed from being depressed and despondent into a responsive bright young man. And even though his spark of life would soon leave him, it got brighter and brighter not dimmer. The boy died, but his life had been forever changed. It had been transformed by the ministry of these caring Christians. And they had allowed the light of Christ to shine through them. And a young boy’s life had been transformed. These three ladies knew the meaning of transfiguration and shared this in a way which changed a person's life.
Our Lenten observance can aid us in our transfiguration. How can our kindness and forgiveness be a means of transfiguration to others? How can it do so for ourselves?