By Fr. Hyancinthe Allagbe, CJM
On Ash Wednesday, we entered the Lenten season recognizing that we need conversion. And last Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, our faces were set toward the Easter way, the way of the desert and of all temptations. We went to the desert with Christ to experience the strength of the Spirit that we received at the time of our baptism and the victory over ourselves - the victory that leads us to heavenly realities.
On this second Sunday of Lent, the Church gives us a taste of the splendor of the kingdom to which we aspire: intimacy with God in Jesus Christ. The spiritual force which comes from this Sunday’s message on the Transfiguration of the Lord is so great that we must enter it with our whole being. Abraham’s vocation and St. Peter’s enthusiasm could inspire us and help us to take off our masks and make our faces shine with the light of God.
The Transfiguration Opens our Eyes
I remember Father Maurice Zundel (1897-1975), who preached retreats in the Vatican, once shared a story that explains the meaning of the Transfiguration. He said that we notice light better when we are in the dark. He then told a story about a husband who has a sick wife, who is almost in the terminal stages of cancer. Her husband was a frivolous and mundane man who seemed rather courteous from the outside, but who created excuses to leave her side in order to “cheat” on her. The woman had felt that her husband’s love was insincere and merely a facade. On the day she was about to die, she politely asked her husband to stay with her and he accepted. Then she fell asleep. The moment she slept, her husband instantly found a reason to leave the hospital. Unfortunately as soon as he left, the woman died. Maybe she realized that even as she was about to die, her husband’s heart remained painfully selfish and locked in itself. Probably, this coldness in the man’s heart could have hastened his wife’s death.
After the death of his wife, under the influence of his mother, the man started to understand. Gradually, his mother made him realize the lying, absent, selfish and camouflaged person that he was.
The transfiguration gives all its meaning to our approach towards Easter, which is that of our "integration" in the divine life by the risen Christ. Only the light of true love can make us enter in the splendor of Christ and the greatness of our baptism.
We have to be careful because all of us have this attitude in various degrees. So, on the transfiguration story on this second Sunday of lent time, the church calls us to look toward our goal of becoming sharers in the splendor of God’s love.
Going toward the Eternal Light
The Transfiguration pushes us to ask ourselves the question: how do we show ourselves to the world? Do we wear masks? Do we only show a facade? Do we present a face that makes others believe that we are good, generous, devoted, full of love and tenderness, while in reality, there is nothing but an intention to preserve what is required or necessary?
This gospel of the Transfiguration reveals to us today this capacity, this prodigious and magnificent power of a human being who can become the face of the Eternal Light. However, in reality, the Transfiguration is not the only time that Jesus showed the splendor of the Son of God to Peter, James and John. It could have dazzled Jesus’ friends but it does not mean that Jesus’ splendor was absent in his daily life with them. His splendor as the Son of God was present day to day, but his disciples’ eyes could not see it because their eyes were clouded. They were more concerned with who will be the greatest, who will sit on the right, who will sit on the left hand of Jesus. They did not have enough purity, enough love, enough generosity to enter this reality of pure light and eternal love. For an instant on the day of the transfiguration, the disciples’ eyes were opened. They entered the marvelous secret of a deified flesh. So amazed, Peter did not want to leave. He asks nothing else than to stay there. So drawn to this experience, he offered to build three tents. But, it was not something that requires a material response, it needs a spiritual response. The appropriate response is that we have to leave all like Abraham to enter in the glory of the Lord.
How to Leave our Selfishness to Share in the Splendor of God
Abram’s example can help. “Leave your country,” God said to Abraham. The desire and goal of our existence is God. And God's plan for each of us cannot be lived out by being enamoured with ourselves. The desire of God is that we join him in his infinity. The desire for love is to last forever. When Abraham leaves Ur in Chaldea, he did not know what will happen the next day. What joys? What tests? What detachments? But he hoped in confidence for the best life. He knows nothing of God's next move for his life, but for him, this God who speaks to him is greater than his homeland, than family, and his father's house. So it is with our life. We have received more because we have received the Son of God in our humanity. It is with him that we shine with life. It is precisely the role of this time of Lent that we live: Stripping us, so opening our eyes so that we could be united to the True Light for eternity.
We therefore want to hear in this transfiguration today, the most current manifestation of our "yes" to this call of which Saint Paul speaks to us. “God saved us; he called us to a holy vocation, not because of our own acts, but because of his own designs and his grace. This grace had been given to us in Christ Jesus before all ages. So let us forget all of our "no", all of our negativity, all of our heaviness, all of our tiredness, all of our limits and all of our idea of the limits of others to merge into the infinite "yes" of Christ. Then we can enter the Transfiguration where God will be all of us and we are all in God. We will come out clothed in him and carrying on our face, the joy of his love and the smile of his luminous goodness forever and ever. Amen!