“This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.”
Just before Lent I wrote to say that as Christians, Lent gives us a wonderful opportunity to examine who we are as a person, to examine what motivates us as a person and to examine our deepest desires and those actions that we do which lead us away from God and away from our neighbour. Lent is about waking up and being honest, it is about examining what our predominant fault or faults are.
So here we are on the Second Sunday of Lent and I wonder how you are all getting on with your Lenten journey of examining what your predominant fault is through the means of fasting, prayer, almsgiving? Have you made an examination of conscience and sought forgiveness from God and from your neighbour? A true examination of our predominant fault/s will lead us to change and a true transformation of who we are as a Christian person. In other words, we become transformed in and through Christ!
Our readings from Sacred Scripture on this Second Sunday of Lent talk about sacrifice, faith, belief and transformation. In our first reading we hear of Abraham who receives that rather disturbing request from God to sacrifice his son Isaac to the Lord. Abraham was obedient and through faith trusted in what God was asking of him, though at huge personal cost. The story ends happily as it proves to be a test of faith, God was testing Abraham, just as he tested others in the Bible like Job and Jonah. Whilst the story of Abraham and Isaac may sound a little frightening and even abhorrent to modern readers and listeners, it did send out a strong clear message at the time, the God of Abraham does not want human sacrifices or indeed any other blood sacrifices, what God really wants is a humble and contrite heart. It is worth remembering that at the time in which Abraham lived, some cultures would have made human sacrifices to other deities including child sacrifices.
Then in our Gospel we have Mark’s account of the Transfiguration, which takes us back to the mystery of the Incarnation, one of the key mysteries of our faith, that Jesus Christ is true God and true man. I can almost hear some of you exclaiming to yourself with a ‘oh no here he goes again, Fr Ross talking to us about the mystery of the Incarnation!’ I make no apologies as the mystery of the Incarnation is so important and once you get it, everything about Christ makes sense, for the Christian story of salvation is really and truly incarnational.
So what is the incarnation (and please take note if you are studying your GCSE RE at St George College)? The incarnation is the mystery of the union of Jesus’ divine and human natures. Theologically speaking a ‘mystery’ is a truth which is above reason, but revealed to us by God. The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity assumed human nature and became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is one person with two natures: divine and human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. You don’t necessarily need to understand it, as mysteries are often beyond human understanding, all you have to do is believe it and accept it as revealed truth, so don’t worry – God is Mystery!
The story of the Transfiguration is therefore an encounter with the mystery of the Incarnation. Jesus is transfigured before the very eyes of his three closest friends: “his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them.” This brightness that so dazzled the disciples was the interior divinity of Christ shining through his human body. Here we get a sense of his divinity as never seen before in the Gospel narrative.
As if this was not extraordinary enough, Moses and Elijah then turn up representing the Law and the Prophets from the Old Testament. These two are seen to be talking with Christ and adoring Christ in his Divinity. We do not have a record of what was said, but I can imagine it was probably a conversation about the trials that were awaiting him in Jerusalem, which we know are just around the corner.
Then to top it all, God the Father makes a sudden appearance on the scene and: “a bright cloud covered them with a shadow, and from the cloud came a voice which said, ‘this is my Son, the beloved. Listen to him’” Again, as at Jesus’ Baptism, we get a clear statement from God that Jesus is his Son. We call this a Theophany.
So what does this all mean for us? Well it is fairly simple, during Lent each of us is called to renew ourselves and to examine our life and our own predominant fault/s through the means of a good examination of conscience and through fasting, prayer and almsgiving or an act of charity towards another. It is through these acts that we show our inward transformation in and through Christ and it is also the way in which Christ’s Divinity shines through us as Christians. Is Lent transfiguring you to reveal Jesus Christ to others through your words, your prayers, your deeds and your actions? I sincerely hope so, as it is through these actions that people will know you are a Christian.