•Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18 • Philippians 3:17—4:1 • Luke 9:28b-36•
Weekly Scripture Readings: Second Sunday in Lent
For a printable PDF of the homily, click here.
A dear friend who worked hard on Saturdays always came to Saturday evening liturgy. You know what happens when you are tired. One day, sitting in the front pew, he fell asleep during my homily. When I spoke his name, he jerked awake. The routine and familiarity of liturgy can lull us to sleep — now we stand; now we sit; now we eat and drink. A Liturgical Presider was having trouble with his microphone. He said, “there is something wrong with this microphone.” A few folks responded, “and also with you.” I think that siimple story illustrates how easy it is to live without awareness of the radiant life deep within us.
Three of the evangelists considered this event we call the Transfiguration very important.
Although they agree on the essential details, we cannot reconstruct with any certainty the
experience that gave rise to this astonishing story. Remember this. The gospels are not texts teaching academic doctrines about Jesus. They are not biographies written to provide details about the history of his life. However they do provide valuable information about Jesus.
Luke’s version of the Transfiguration provides some details not mentioned in the others. He claims that Peter, James and John “were very sleepy,” and “afraid when they entered the cloud that appeared.” Luke had a reason for including those details. I will return to them in a moment.
For Luke and the other Synoptic authors, the mountaintop, and the change in the appearance of Jesus and his clothes are very significant metaphors. They tell us in some extraordinary way Jesus experienced the Gracious Mystery we name God. He experienced some sort of dramatic, dazzling change. In some personal way he realized a new vitality from the source of life within himself. He had some sort of radical, inner awakening about himself and his destiny.
Whatever that experience, it moved him deeply. Jesus became a fully spiritualized, fully alive human being. Thereafter he lived in complete harmony with what he understood as “God’s new reality” emerging in and among us.
The Transfiguration was not only about a change in Jesus. Those who first were attracted to him and followed him had some sort of transformative experience. The Transfiguration is also about the radical change that took place in his three companions who “were very sleepy,” and “afraid.”
Following Luke’s lead, I suggest we see and understand his three companions as symbols of every human being. Most folks are spiritually “sleepy” and/or “afraid.” Many of us easily drift off into in “la-la land,” or are very distracted by sports, entertainment or basic survival needs. Many lack awareness of our deepest truth. Perhaps you know what I mean if you get up, go to work, play, eat and sleep with little or no awareness of the deeper mystery within you. If you are sleepy, your inner truth, your spiritual life is dormant and you are not aware of the divine radiance deep within you. In such moments you are unable to be fully alive and fully human.
So this story about the Transfiguration is also about you. In this event Luke is calling you to recognize and respond to a reality that lives within you, waiting to be discovered. It is your true being, your true self! The Gracious Mystery we name God is present in you as the very source of your vitality. We see in Jesus what each and every human being, each and every one of us has the potential to experience and become.
It is a cute story but I think it illustrates well what I am trying to convey. A Liturgical Presider said “there is something wrong with this microphone.” A few folks responded, “and also with you.” These days of Lent provide opportunity for you to wake up spiritually! I hope you embrace the opportunity. Be aware of, be in touch with that Gracious Mystery within you! Nurture your deepest and most authentic self.