Dear friends. You may be familiar with the TV show ‘Operation Transformation’ that began on RTE shortly after Christmas. It involves people who want to lose weight, get fit and lead a healthier lifestyle. They want to change. In many ways, Lent for us is a time of ‘Operation Transformation’ or to put it better ‘Operation Transfiguration’. We too want to change and the six weeks of Lent is a time of training, of being ‘put to the test’ so that we can become better Christians and become healthier in body and soul.
Today we read the Gospel passage of the Transfiguration where Jesus brought Peter, James and John up a high mountain where he was transfigured by a dazzling light. It was a deep and powerful experience of God’s glory. For a few minutes, the veil was pulled back and the disciples were allowed to glimpse who Jesus really was as the Son of God. For Peter, James and John, it was a moment they would never forget for they realised that they too would share in this transformation and change, even if they would have to suffer much beforehand.
For us in the Church, this element of change and growth has not always received the emphasis it deserves. We reduced our Christian commitment to keeping laws and fulfilling obligations. Having faith meant being faithful which was often taken to mean staying the same. We did not always appreciate that faith in Christ is a much greater and exciting adventure that calls us to grow and change all the time. To see this, all we need do is look at the number of living images from the Gospels that connect faith to life: ‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full’ (John 10:10); ‘I am the vine, you are the branches…Whoever remains in me, bears fruit in plenty’ (John 15: 1,5); ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few’ (Luke 10:2). Here is the good news that a personal relationship with Jesus in the Spirit in the Church, leads us to newness of life. With Him we are transfigured and changed.
But what shape does this growth take? What does it look like? Here I share a few examples. I move from my worth being attached to my job, position, possessions, performance, and good works to being a beloved child of God, loved for who I am. If I make a mistake or sin then I don’t despair and come back immediately to Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy. I move from a sense of over-confidence in myself, independence and complacency to a sense of humility and gratitude for each day. I move from a sense of only God and me to a spirituality of being a member of the family of the parish and the Church. We move from a constant fear to a quiet confidence in the Lord’s words that ‘I will be with you always’ (Matt. 28:20). We move from loving the lovable to loving the unlovable. We become less excited about success and more concerned with being faithful. We change from being jealous of other’s gifts and success to a sense that it is all for God and so I will rejoice! We move from looking for recognition and support of myself, to me recognising, supporting and encouraging. We move from a reluctance to confront to having the courage to speak the truth with love. Sometimes we change from losing friendships to learning who we are – not in relation to other people, but just as ourselves. Finally, as we get older we change from losing possessions and abilities only to appreciate what we have left.
I am sure you could add things here and make your own list of how you have changed and grown over the years. I encourage you to draw up such a list and to reflect on it. ‘Operation Transformation’ is a good programme for getting people fit again and to lose weight. But nothing compares to ‘Operation Transfiguration’ where the grace of our baptism that is at work in us every day can change us from being dull and static to becoming a living people who shine with the godliness and beauty of God the Father.
Fr Billy Swan