Reflections from Fr Claude

Second Sunday of Lent

In today’s transfiguration stories we are taken to high places - places of dreams and visions. In revelations there is testing where our sight is restrained, and horizons limited.  In Genesis, Abraham was adhering to the ancient Mesopotamian cultural requirement where firstborn sons and flock were sacrificed, but there was a moment of revelation in discovering that God rejects child/human sacrifice. Abraham listened to the God of life, peace and nonviolence, who not wanting death but life, said ‘stop.’ We see here the declaration that the God of life never requires human sacrifice.

This has not yet taken on in many parts of the world as we look around. We should also note that the male made the decision for human sacrifice.  Isaac’s mother was not consulted! He was her child too. How many women have had their eyes opened to the lies, deceit, waste, the evil sacrifice of humanity to war in the form of their children, husbands, fathers and brothers. When God’s angel stayed Abraham’s hand, it said ‘Enough!’ This is a story for Christians, Jews, Muslims, and people of all other faiths. ‘Enough!’ The voice of God today rings out: ‘listen to him’. ‘Put away the sword’. ‘Don't return evil for evil. Return good for evil’. Jesus, however, expands this understanding of God with his calls to love one another, love the enemy, forgive one another, be compassionate and be merciful, seek God’s peace and justice.

In the transfiguration, Jesus is placed alongside Moses and Elijah. As Moses was the great liberator from slavery in the Hebrew stories, Jesus called people away from Roman colonial abuses of Rome and complicity with Rome back to the Torah’s justice teaching toward the poor and the marginalised. Elijah also held a special place in a people longing for liberation from Rome. Mark was written about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome. Elijah prophetically represents all those who have stood up to and spoken truth to power even though he gets the wobbles and flees in fear afterwards.  As Moses stood for liberation, Elijah stands for all those who have prophetically called for justice in the face of violent opposition by those in power who are threatened by their calls for change. And change comes by continually speaking out and raising our voices, whether appropriately loud or quiet, against injustice. Like Jesus coming down the mountain to face the powerful temple state in Jerusalem, we too today are called to speak out in our spheres of influence whenever people, the objects of God’s universal love, are being harmed. 

As people are disfigured due to oppressive systems and structures of the society, it seems that Jesus’ transfigured body is his identification with all whose bodies have been battered, bruised, humiliated, excluded, and rejected, offering hope and dignity to all. Whereas the colonial Roman empire disfigured bodies using violence and unjust public executions, Jesus’ transfiguration is a symbol of offering hope to all bodies. In our own time it offers hope to the disfigured bodies because of their colour, caste, gender, and sexuality. If anything, the transfiguration of Jesus is an affirmation of all bodies. We see this at the bottom of the mountain when Jesus heals a boy whose body has been disfigured.


Today’s readings speak to the cataclysm in Palestine. The sacrifice of children, women and men is being condoned by many in word and complicity. The voice in the gospel says, ‘Listen to him.’  It is a call to listen to Jesus’ words and apply them in creating relationships that build new communities. What are we to do with ‘this is my beloved child’ when we realise that they are meant for us and propel us into a way of life where God’s Reign becomes visible for others? These words will have consequences for us as they did for Jesus. Being on the mountain is fine but coming down is not for the faint of heart. It is a return to the everyday life of misunderstanding, squabbling and disbelieving fellow believers; into the violence within our communities, and in places like Gaza, the Occupied West Bank, Sudan, Nigeria and Ukraine; into ongoing religious and political quarrels; into jealousies and rivalries that contaminate relationships; into the poverty, injustice and suffering that impact on many lives. Jesus does not come down alone. God comes down among us into our brokenness, fear, disappointment, and loss and enter the dark places of the world and the dark places of our lives.

Today’s gospel is about seeing in a new way. There is an aspect of lament to it as we are called to see things as they are and how could be. We are called to step outside of our normal boundaries and listen to the Jesus who speaks through suffering men, women, children and groaning Mother Earth. What if we would listen more? In the midst of war and violence, we are called to see the presence of God and the invitation to peace. Abraham learned that God was a God of peace and not sacrifice. Yet young people continue to be sacrificed in places around the world to kill people they have never met. The vision of Abraham, the standing with Jesus on the mountain could be a way of learning that war and injustice, poverty and hunger are not inevitable. The Genesis story is about the end of anything that diminishes the image of God in another. Killing [‘human sacrifice’], whether in war or in refugee detention centres or capital punishment, has no sanction and no place in our religion. That ’human sacrifice’ continues to be offered in the use of sex slaves, human trafficking, forced marriages, child labour, sweat shops and detention of asylum seekers.


The transfiguration is not a one-off event. We all have transfiguration moments. It is repeated in moments of encounter with people, with nature, and the inanimate world where the extraordinary is seen in the ordinary be it in the stars at night, the presence of a baby, the change in a person, the passion for justice in people and organisations, and the struggles for peace and justice. We can see things differently and act differently. Jesus saw things that others did not because he saw things from an upside-down perspective where God is present everywhere and seen with the eyes of love. And we can see God in others, to recognise their sacredness and dignity. We need to make the effort to connect with them. We can live together in our diversity by letting go of racism, hatred for people in the Queer community, the need to control, to given in to violence in word and action, the fear that leads to paralysis and inaction, and the mistrust that leads to conflict. We can do this because we have been to the ‘mountain’ and come down again knowing that as Paul says in the second reading, ‘with God on our side who can be against us,’ that God is in all things, all people, and that we are sisters and brothers.


Pope Francis is calling us as a human family to be transfigured by love and solidarity. To think beyond the broken economic, political, spiritual, and social paradigms that have led us to our crises. He invites us to step back from our entrenched ways of thinking and imagine creative new ways of being in relationship with one another and the earth that reflect our dignity God’s own. In Fratelli Tutti, Francis writes, ‘If only we might rediscover once for all that we need one another, and that in this way our human family can experience a rebirth...Unless we recover the shared passion to create a community of belonging and solidarity worthy of our time, our energy and our resources, the global illusion that misled us will collapse and leave many in the grip of anguish and emptiness (35).’ God’s desire is to transform and transfigure us and all that we offer him.


We have been exhorted to listen to Jesus. The message remains the same: love one another, i.e., take care of one another, especially the downtrodden. Whenever we give our time for the benefit of another, we are laying down our life. Whenever we take the time to write on behalf of a person who is being oppressed or ill-treated, even though we are unlikely to ever meet that person, we are laying down our life. Whenever we rally or support a living wage or seek to ensure humane treatment of migrants and refugees, we are laying down our life. May we come to understand the social implications of the gospel and learn to speak up for justice for all those who are oppressed in any way. So, what is happening in our story? Are we conflicted with injustice and the harm being done today? Do you also need some encouragement that our voice matters? Are we afraid of the consequences of speaking out? The way of love calls each of us, alongside of others, to speak out against injustice in your world, today.


Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides

and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love,

and then, for a second time in the history of the world,

man will have discovered fire.’

Teilhard de Chardin


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