Lent Sunday 2C, 13th March 2022
Without giving too much away it was noticeable that in our first zoom meeting last week to look at the Pope’s book ‘Let Us Dream’ there was a distinct sense of unease about what to say and how to go forward – everyone disturbed by the situation in Ukraine. This naturally dominated the discussion and inspired a certain sense of helplessness. Pope Francis does not see this as necessarily a bad sign; this said, in the context of the call to be a Christian
Of course, we hesitate. Faced with so much suffering who does not balk? It is fine to tremble a little. Fear of the mission can in fact, be a sign of the Holy Spirit. We feel, at once, both inadequate to the task and called to it.[page21]
It’s how I feel in writing this. It’s how Abram feels when called to leave his country. It’s Peter puzzled at the Transfiguration and suggesting we pitch camp there while the going’s good one might say, and the young soldier preparing to defend Kyiv. ‘No-one wants to die but I must defend my country.’ Fear at the unknown, of what might transpire next and for Peter, James and John a remembrance also of the words just spoken before of the Passion, of taking up a cross, and now at hearing Moses and Elijah speaking to Jesus of his passing which he has to accomplish in Jerusalem – this exodus we all have to make at some point. Or as Pope Francis puts it with the many nurses and doctors and others who put their lives at risk in mind attempting to save others during Covid
Whether or not they were conscious of it, their choice testified to a belief that it is better to live a shorter life saving others than a longer one resisting that call.[p 13]
So we can see the Transfiguration in terms of a call to further conversion: the apostles have already answered that initial call but the reality of it is still unfolding – perhaps as with so many decisions if we knew the full implications beforehand we would never have committed ourselves. So the call for further conversion in this scene is tempered with a promise of future glory, one of those several moments perhaps in our own lives when the veil is briefly removed and we know that there’s something going on here which the surface reality keeps well hidden. The former abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Mount Saint Bernard in Leicestershire and now Bishop of Trondheim in Norway, Erik Varden, writes well of this in describing his initial call as a moment of revelation. He’s studying in Paris, an academic career awaits him in Cambridge, but he’s dissatisfied with the comfort of it all, something is lacking and he doesn’t know what it is until one day, returning home late to his accommodation he finds a body on the doorstep, a homeless man asleep. At first this annoys him, makes him angry, this disturbance to an otherwise enjoyable day and he is so disturbed by his disturbance as a supposed Christian, that he takes a walk around the block to compose himself, or rather to be composed, and when he returns to the doorstep he befriends the man, offers to pay for his accommodation and the man leads him through the streets of Paris to find somewhere to spend the night and the walk is a revelation for the man points out where all the other homeless bundles of rags are sleeping in this doorway or that. He knows them all by name. For Erik it’s a life-changing experience
My heart previously dark was charged with a joy so profound it was painful. Walking home I was inundated with light… He had opened my eyes to humanity hurting, frightened, yet able, in a flash to rise to immense dignity… I felt commissioned there and then to answer for the misery and greatness I had seen.(pp 14,15 Entering the Twofold Mystery)
This then is Transfiguration – there for us all.