Reflection for the Sunday before Lent
“Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.” From Luke 9:28-36, NRSV.
“The International Judo Federation has suspended Vladimir Putin as honorary president and ambassador.” Online BBC news update.
Today’s Gospel is the Transfiguration of Jesus, appropriate for a world being changed by love, hope and bravery as well as hatred, fear and warfare. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has happened, despite diplomatic endeavours, and there has already been much bloodshed and destruction. Sanctions have been imposed in various ways (though President Putin will not probably be too affected by losing his presidency of the International Judo Federation!) and it’s clear that sporting sanctions are already having an effect in motor racing and football. With financial sanctions, loss of airspace, provision of supplies and the various other responses to the invasion, what lies ahead is likely to be protracted and complicated. However, with President Volodymyr Zelensky (a former comedian now being lauded a hero by many) facing the actions of President Putin (a black belt in judo facing much international criticism) there is a sense of disbelief and terror as well as absurdity at some of the things that are happening. Has so little been learned from the lessons of history?
There was disbelief at the Transfiguration, too, when Peter, James and John were also terrified by what was happening and were the only disciples taken up a mountain by Jesus to pray. When the figures of Moses and Elijah appear, representing the Law and the Prophets, not only is God’s glory revealed but a cloud descends, from which a voice is heard saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.” (v35) This echoes the words at Jesus’ baptism, which confirms the start of his ministry just as the transfiguration confirms what lies ahead: the departure or exodus to Jerusalem. The sleepy disciples will later have difficulty staying awake in Gethsemane but, for now, they are roused by the glory they witness and Peter wants to build a reminder of what has happened – even as it’s taking place. That’s occurring as war breaks out today, too, with reporters and photographers capturing events as they unfold.
Understandably, Peter wants to linger in that holy place but they all come back down the mountain and are then faced with a mentally ill man shrieking at them. From the glory of what they’ve just experienced on the mountain, now the reality of daily life has to be confronted. And that’s what happens when Jesus heals the man, who is restored to his right mind. That is our hope too as glory and transfiguration encounter pain and disfiguration in our world today. Like those first disciples, we may be bewildered and terrified or faced with events we can’t comprehend but we are also figures in the ongoing struggle between the transfiguration and the disfiguration of life and will have opportunities to make a difference – one way or another – in the situations we embody.
So: go, figure!
With my prayers; pob bendith,