March 13, 2022
Sister Anne Madeline Brost, OSB reflects on the scripture readings: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28b-36
The first reading today from Genesis, and the Gospel from Luke, the story of the Transfiguration, are stories of transformation. They are stories of light. Light is the transformation of matter into energy, the transformation of what is material or something that seems stable in our eyes, into what is moving, glowing. Think of the burning wick of a candle.
These readings are of transformation on different levels of living and being. First in the Old Law is the evolution from a nomadic way of living to a settled way. Besides God’s promise to Abram to be the father of many descendants, these descendants will have their own Land. These people followed a person to a place on earth.
In the New Law, Jesus’ Law of Love, people are given a New Way to live.
The New Testament writers help us to see that the Hebrew Scriptures are a foreshadowing of the Christian Scriptures. And those who compiled the writings for the liturgy have chosen passages that connect the message of the Old Testament to that of the New Testament.
In the Genesis reading, God tells Abram that he will have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky: “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you can. Just so, shall your descendants be.” One can think of that gift as God promising the energy of life—the energy of stars—to Abram and his family. God also promises Abram’s descendants a land of their own: “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.” On the altar of Abram’s animal sacrifice to confirm his acceptance of God’s gift, a flaming torch burst forth. Another light, energy, new life: Transformation.
In Luke’s Gospel story of the Transfiguration, Jesus’ clothing becomes dazzling, and he is changed in appearance as he converses with Moses and Elijah. Another light: Transformation.
It is significant and prophetic that two Hebrew heroes are conversing with Jesus. Both Moses and Elijah, followers of the “old law,” have been causes of Transformation. They brought light to the lives of their people. Moses led his people out of the land of Egypt, back to the land given to Abram, a forty-year event in the desert. Elijah raised a person from the dead, the son of the widow of Zareptha.
The conversation Jesus is having with Moses and Elijah, when his clothing becomes dazzling, is about Jesus and the “exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” These two Hebrew heroes are fitting foretellers of Jesus’ life, his death and resurrection. Moses led his nation into a new way of living. Jesus will lead his followers into a new Way.
When the three apostles finally wake up to this Light, they want to keep it glowing: “Let us build three tents here.” Jesus says, “Not yet, there is work to be done before the Light is permanent.” Jesus and the three apostles hear the Divine calling Jesus “Son.” Jesus has an understanding that both himself and his mission are being transformed. The Apostles choose to stay with Jesus and they too, are beginning to be transformed as they recognize the light and “see” on a deeper level.
I too have experience of the Light, of that deeper level of being, and would like to stay there. But I need to learn, just like Peter, James, and John, how to stay with Jesus. How to accept “salvation” or “healing” as Bishop Golka defines it. Jesus has brought “healing” transformation to us. Accepting that gift is our challenge.
Paul tells the Philippians (and us): “Therefore, my sisters and brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, in this way, stand firm in the Lord, beloved.”
This has been an injunction for me all my religious life. Francis de Sales in the Spiritual Directory for the Visitation nuns, wrote in 1610: “Therefore my sisters, my very dear daughters, my joy and my crown, stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.”
The old becomes new.