2 Sunday of Len B
I hope I don’t jinx s by saying this, but spring may actually be in the air. The warmer weather we’ve had this past week has our minds wandering again toward spring and all the rituals that come with it. Spring cleaning. Spring break. And, for all the baseball fans out there, spring training. The boys of summer begin their year every spring with several weeks of practice. The weeks of training all come together with a round of pre-season scrimmages, a sneak peek at what the various teams will be like and even who might win it all this year, providing the teams themselves with the chance to improve their skills through competition.
Our gospel gives us another sort of sneak peek in the story of the transfiguration. In the story, Jesus appears to his chosen apostles in all his glory, a foretaste of who he will be after the resurrection. It’s as if, for a brief moment, the future reaches back and breaks into the present. By doing so, Jesus prepares the apostles for what lies ahead: his glorification and, through him, their own. But the road to glory must first lead down the road to suffering, the road to Jerusalem and the cross. Jesus knows this. The sneak peek of the transfiguration ends. The present returns. Jesus and his apostles come down the mountain. Much spring training remains to prepare the apostles for what is coming and the fullness of God’s glory that can only be revealed through first suffering and dying.
For the apostles at the time of the transfiguration, Jesus had not yet died and risen. For us 2000 years later he has. And just like at Advent we don’t pretend Jesus was never born, so during Lent we don’t pretend Jesus never died and rose. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again, the mystery of faith we proclaim at our celebration of the Eucharist.
Because of this, unlike the apostles on the mountain who had to wait to share Christ’s risen life, we who live now already do. We live in the risen life of Christ through our baptism. Remember the words God spoke from the cloud in our gospel today? “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” They recall another time God speaks from a cloud in the gospels, Jesus’ baptism. As he comes up from the water, God speaks from heaven, “You are my beloved son. With you I am well pleased.” God speaks those words to Christ. God speaks the words in today’s gospel to the apostles and to all of us who share in Christ’s life through our baptism. “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.”
We live in the risen life of Christ, but we are painfully aware that our sharing in that life is not yet complete. We’re not fully there yet. We see signs of this in the world, with widespread poverty, hunger, and war. We see signs of this in our own country and community, with social division, gun violence, and moral decay. We see signs of this in our own lives, with family problems, illness, and the inevitability of death. Our share in the life of Christ is far from complete.
But share the life of Christ we do, and, if we listen to him, we can see signs of that too, sneak peeks of the glory that is to come. The smile of a newborn child whose mother chooses life. The first buds of spring beginning to appear in the warming sun after the worst Erie winter in years. Helping hands reaching out to people in need and finding a way to peace and reconciliation. The life we live now shares in the newness of the risen life of Christ, the future breaking into the present, but as an anticipation, transfiguration experiences.
Meanwhile, a lot of spring training remains to prepare us to share Christ’s life and glory fully. Lent can be an important part of that, a spring training camp the church gives us every year to overcome our spiritual limitations and enter more fully into the risen life of Christ. Through our acts of prayer, penance, and generous self-giving, God works to strengthen us in spirit so that we can face the dark, incomplete moments of life with faith and by that faith witness to the glory to come. Jesus revealed that glory to the apostles so long ago, and, after his death and resurrection, they “listened to him.” They followed in his footsteps and revealed his glory to the world. During this Lent, “listen” to Christ. Take advantage of this opportunity to grow in his life. Then, as we celebrate the great feast of Easter, follow in his footsteps and reveal his glory to the world.