- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories - Transfigured and Transformed: A Vision of Hope
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high
mountain apart, by themselves. There he was transfigured before them....
On the vigil of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (3 Oct 2020), Pope Francis published the encyclical “Fratelli tutti” (Brothers and Sisters All). It is a simple, straight forward presentation of the vision of St. Francis, but also of the overall vision of Pope Francis. It is the dream of God expressed at the outset of the Old Testament, in the poetic account of creation: “God saw all that had been made, and indeed it was very good.” (Gen.1:31). It is also the vision related at the end of the final book of our Scriptures, the Book of Revelation: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth;… ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God, they will be God’s people’” (Rev.21:1-3).
The whole message and mission of Jesus words and works is the expression of this vision. Francis of Assisi lived and expressed in the 13th century. The early Christian communities sensed it in their faith in Jesus as the incarnation of God among them. The vision is one of hope, in God’s transforming love for all humanity and all of creation.
Every year on the Second Sunday of Lent we listen to the story of the transfiguration. This year we hear the account as told by the Gospel writer Mark (Mk 9:2-10). Transfiguration is not a common word for us, but it does describe something that is quite often part of our experience. Transfiguration expresses change, transformation. It leads us to see things differently. On that “high mountain apart, by themselves” those three disciples saw Jesus differently. They had a glimpse of who Jesus is.
It is a story of vision in several ways. Peter and James and John have a vision. They glimpse Jesus in radiant light, expressing the presence of God in their midst. He is accompanied by the prophet Elijah and by Moses who led God’s People into covenant with God and brought them from slavery to liberation. These were the twin pillars of the faith of Israel in God – the law and the prophets. The vision of Peter, James and John now brought them to see this faith fulfilled in Jesus.
The transfiguration is not only about Jesus. The vision is also about the disciples and their mission. And it is about us, about how we live and how we stand in hope. It is about our own transformation and becoming. Whether we realize it or not, following in the steps of Jesus and blessed with the Spirit, we are meant to transfigure the earth, all creation. Ours is a call to bring hope to all peoples, to bring life out of suffering and death, liberation out of bondage and injustice, healing out of division and hurt. Such is a world transformed, transfigured.
Pope Francis sees this as the common dream of all humanity. He expresses it this way: “How important it is to dream together… By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together. Let us dream then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of [our] beliefs and convictions, each of us with [our] own voice, brothers and sisters all. (“Fratelli Tutti” 8)
Reflection Question ~ This Lent, what can I do to build this shared dream in little ways?