Wonderful to be here

Published on 13 Mar 2019
Transfiguration: abstract painting with yellow.

Peter Gallagher SJ reflects on how the glory of God can give energy to our Lenten journey.

Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep.  We know this feeling.  We are sometimes very tired.  Our weariness affects our view of Lent.  We would like to live the best possible Lent but energy can be lacking. At the same time, we are not so torpid or so short of spiritual ambition that we would not like Lent to go well. Weary as we may be, we desire the closeness to God which is offered so abundantly in this holy season.  In a sluggish sort of way, as the second week begins, we continue to have high hopes. Might not these important days energize us, despite everything? They kept awake and saw his glory. Could that be us?  Heavy with sleep they were stirred to see the glory of God and to pronounce it is wonderful for us to be here. 

It is wonderful for us to be here

The Lenten recalling of the Transfiguration allows us to celebrate a wonderful change.  Jesus was transfigured. It is his Resurrection which on the Second Sunday of Lent is suddenly anticipated so spectacularly and with such beauty. Yet there is a change in the apostles also: a transformation from slumber to energy. This alteration is very striking. 

Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches us that beauty is constituted of completeness, proportion and shining truth: integrity, consonance and clarity.   The beauty of God has these qualities.  In Christ transfigured we are being shown divinity. God’s beauty, complete, consonant and clear, cries out for our focused attention. Yet we could miss the signs that God has come into the world to draw us to himself.  We may be heavy with sleep?

The brightness of the truth

Why were Peter and his companions so tired?  They were trying to do more than one job at once. Discipleship of Jesus is a full-time activity and the fish still had to be caught and brought to shore. The apostles were juggling many responsibilities.  Jesus is very keen on getting up early in the morning to pray.  However early morning devotion did not mesh well with night-shift fishing on the Sea of Galilee.  What was to be done? What is to be done? 

On the holy mountain of the Transfiguration, it appears that whatever their initial torpor and obtuseness, Peter, John and James, were quickly attuned to the clarity, to the brightness of the truth of what is revealed in Jesus.

So what about us?  We are tired. We are juggling too many things.  We would like to pray better, but time and energy are to seek.  We sense our Lord’s compassion but also his disappointment.  The demands of our life are acknowledged and understood by God who knows us and loves us. We long for closeness to God.  We seek connectedness to his desires for us. We sense the loving glance of God on our crowded life. Yet because life is so full we can scarcely respond. 

Master, it is wonderful for us to be here

Into this predicament, comes the possibility of transfiguration.  Could we, by some miracle of perspective, be brought to see everything differently?  We earnestly wish for the integrity which is in the beauty of God and which would transform our moral life. We long also for consonance: that our life would exhibit the appropriate and balanced attention to what is truly important. Finally, how profoundly we are drawn to the clarity of divine beauty; God is clear; he brightens our life; he illuminates our way. 

The Lord is my light

Peter and the others were enabled to shake off the heaviness of their exhaustion to see the glory of God. We humbly acknowledge that sometimes we are clumsy in our discipleship and insensitive in our listening for God’s word. We pray for a glimpse of the glory which the apostles saw. We pitch our tent with Christ’s. We settle into Lent. New life is already in us. We ask the Lord to help us to see and understand.

In the silence of Lent we find a holy peace

After the Transfiguration the Gospel tells us the disciples kept silence. There is a certain silence in the Lent in which we are now caught up. Lent is quiet in that we do not make a show of what we are doing. Now there is the silence of prayer, for which we still have scarcely time or energy.   In the silence of Lent we find a holy peace in which our fears about how we will manage are dissolved.  We are praying to the One on whom we can lean heavily. Leaning on Christ we do not sleep. Resting in him, rather, we listen and we begin to understand. It is good for us to be here.  The beauty of God is all around us. We are beginning to see.