Second Sunday in Lent 2021

Lent is not a time for self transformation, but rather for allowing God to transform us.

In some ways, the Gospel reading of the Transfiguration has a pretty clear connection to Lent: it prefigures the Resurrection and Jesus’s transformation from death into the new life of the risen Lord, and it also points to our own transformations in Lent. Many of us fast or give up something for Lent and/or decide to pray, give, or do something new that reflects our hope that God can transform us into something more than who we already are.

But there are many elements of the story that can be perplexing as well. Our own transformations mostly don’t look dazzling. Although people can have big conversion experiences, even those are often the outcome of a longer period of change that leads up to the conversion moment, and can involve a kind of two steps forward, one step back dynamic. More often, change takes place over weeks, months, even years.

Think about, for example, a person who decides he wants to be more generous with others. He may find that he is generous in certain contexts, like sharing his money with those in need, but still feel possessive about other goods: maybe he struggles to be generous in attitude towards others who have different political views than he does, for example.

The fear that Peter, James, and John experience seems to me to be quite understandable. Most of us would find it terrifying to see a friend physically transformed in a radical way, especially if it came from a supernatural source. But even in small, day to day ways, we find change in others to be disconcerting. Can we trust that the person who seems to have moved from an impatient temper to a more patient one really is transformed? If it seems as though our community is moving in a better, rather than worse direction, can we believe in that change, or do we express cynicism that it will all be back to square one in a few months, when another disconcerting incident happens?

One of the powerful elements of this story for me is that it shows us that transformation and change is not only up to us. It is up to us, to a degree, to make choices to participate in God’s transformation of ourselves or of the world. Our choices and agency matter. But the point is that we do not do this alone. God is creatively working to try to bring about peace, justice, love and fidelity, and so we can also depend on God to continue to work in and through us.

This idea, that God accompanies us, both individually and as families or communities, as we seek to love more fully, and live more justly, is reassuring. Lent is not a time for self transformation, but rather for allowing God to transform us. Maybe that can even be a bit disconcerting, as Jesus’s supernatural change was for his friends. But it’s also powerful and reliable: we can trust in God to act even when we ourselves are not fully there yet. So we can pray, give, fast, trusting that God is there with us on the mountain an in the valleys, in our forward steps and in our backward steps, too. calling us ” Beloved.”

2 thoughts on “Second Sunday in Lent 2021

  1. Marina,
    I also share being perplexed by Jesus’ transfiguration and how we associate this with human transformation. What intrigues me is the gospel’s inclusion of epic prophetic leaders who are conversant. I am thinking that integrated transformation must have something to do with this salient connection of God working through such wisdom figures in our lives who we allow to come close for meaningful dialogue.
    Very appreciative of your thoughts,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mike, I like that direction. I agree that wisdom figures in our lives are ways we come to be transfigured. I have several such important people in my own life. Thanks for raising this idea.


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