Sunday reflection

Reflection for Transfiguration Sunday, the Sunday before Lent.
“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” From Mark 9:2-9.
“The Love that dances at the heart of things
Shone out upon us from a human face.” From ‘Transfiguration’,  poem by Malcolm Guite.

“Happy Valentine’s to all of you in love and all of you looking for love. Never lose the faith!” Jane McCubbin, BBC reporter.

Today is Transfiguration Sunday, when Jesus is irradiated with God’s love in a way that dazzles as well as terrifies those with him. It’s also Valentine’s Day, when lovers express their feelings with cards and gifts – often at great cost, emotionally and financially. The custom originated as a feast day to honour the third century Christian martyr who was decapitated and its connection with love may have begun through Chaucer declaring that birds mated then: “For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery Byrd comyth there to chese his make.” From ‘Parlement of Foules’.
Whether marking beheading or betrothing, with the price of flowers up by at least 10% due to Brexit as well as the pandemic and isolation still meaning that many can’t be with those they care for, this is a costly time for lovers. But love is often challenging: when a prison chaplain, I recall one inmate complaining that his wife’s unreasonable behaviour had put him in prison. She had come home early and they’d had a fight when she caught him in bed with another woman – yet he indignantly protested that she should have been grateful that he was loving the family, the other woman being her mother! 
The true price of love has been all too visible throughout this year with NHS, key workers and volunteers risking their own safety to care for others, the isolation and loneliness of so many people and the loss of loved ones and livelihoods. Mental health and domestic abuse concerns with disruption to education and the economy as well as the growth of scams have resulted but so has the realisation of what is important, the development of new ways of communicating, exercising and worshipping through technology and the growth of creativity and humour. The sacrifice being endured is not in vain as infections are now falling sharply, hospitalisation is lower and death rates are beginning to fall. Just as love shines from the face of Jesus in Guite’s poem, showing the costly love of God for all humanity, so it shines in the faces of those who glimpse the power of love being revealed in so many ways. That doesn’t have to be shown by expensive flowers or gifts, but in the response to this transfiguring love that could enable the creation of a more loving and appreciative way of life now and in the new way of life when we emerge from lockdown. The cost of that is priceless – but, as we can all play our part in it, so is the hope. 
With my prayers,