by Sister Donna Schroeder
According to the dictionary, to transfigure is to give a new and typically exalted or spiritual appearance. That is certainly what is described in the Gospel account for Sunday: Christ is transfigured before Peter, James and John, “and his clothing became dazzling white such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.” This calls to mind the bright sunlight on freshly fallen snow outside the Chapel windows.
At a more profound level, it triggers memories of mystical experiences, such as Moses seeing the burning bush that was not consumed by fire. A more recent mystical moment occurred as Thomas Merton stood at the corner of 4th and Walnut in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. In Merton‘s words: “Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts, where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes, if only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all of the time.” If only we could hold on to this breath-taking awareness that we are made in the image of God!
God is love. At its root, fear of the Lord is also love. Love is always transforming. In our Lenten observances, we prepare for Easter through our own transformation so that we will be able to recognize Christ. Remember that, after his resurrection, Christ was transformed in appearance so that many who saw him did not immediately recognize Him. Do we recognize him today? He appears to us as those who are hungry, thirsty, sick, and imprisoned. Take this as both a warning and an invitation to love.
During the first Monday of Lent, we read from Leviticus the list of those commandments that touch on our relationship with neighbors. The words differ from the list most of us memorized as children but they cover the same territory even more vividly. The list ends with the words: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18).
There is a stunning sentence in the first letter of John that says, “Those who say, ‘I love God’ and hate their brothers or sisters are liars, for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20). His first letter overflows with the urgency of loving one another, because the commandment coming from God is that those who love God must love their brothers and sisters. If we see the image of God in each other, it is because God’s love is flowering within us. This is beautifully captured by the refrain of the Communion hymn we sang at Eucharist on Friday, a plea for transfiguration: “Let your living love flow into us. Make your life of love shine out in us.”