The Vantage View. Transforming Moments

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Lent. Year B. 2018
– By Fr Ugo Ikwuka
Archway, London


A man went to the doctor and complained “Doc, I’m really worried.

Every time I drink a cup of coffee, I feel a stabbing pain in my eye. Do you think it’s serious?” The doctor said: “No, but try taking the spoon out of your cup.”

The transfiguration experience of Jesus atop a mountain in this Sunday’s Gospel helped the disciples Peter, James and John to have the correct view of Jesus and what it holds for them.

Few days before the incident, Jesus had told them about his approaching crucifixion and death which shocked them.

They had left everything to follow Him as the Messiah whom they believed would conquer their enemies and restore the fallen Kingdom of Israel, only for him to let them down with such depressing news. That’s not their vision of the Messiah. Is this all there is? What’s the point following him then?

They therefore needed re-assurance, and this time Jesus did not let them down. He took them up through the transfiguration experience where they saw Him in a new light, dazzling, amidst visitors from heaven (Moses and Elijah), with the voice of the Father confirming that indeed Jesus is the Messiah.

This greatly re-assured them that they are in the right path.

The experience took place on a height, on the mountain. In the Bible, mountains are place of encounter with God; Moses received the Law from God on Mount Sinai, and he later encountered God in the burning bush on Mount Horeb.

God confirmed Abraham’s faith on Mount Moriah where he was ready to sacrifice his only son Isaac.

The prophet Isaiah saw a vision of God’s eternal banquet for all people’s on a mountain.

The Temple is built at the summit of Mount Zion.

In the New Testament, Jesus delivered his famous Sermon on the Mount and our broken relationship with God was restored by his death on Mount Calvary.

The mountain therefore evokes transcendence and heightened consciousness; from the mountain top the broad perspective is seen. It is like seeing reality from the standpoint of God; one sees how all things are connected in and through God.

And that’s the message of the transfiguration – that through Jesus, the disciples could ‘stand on higher ground’ above the prejudices and primitive tendencies that distort our vision, to have a new view of reality, a vision beyond the superficial.

The experience didn’t make them see a new Jesus. It is still the same Jesus but seen from a new perspective. From that broader picture, they could see that his death which they were earlier disappointed with, would actually count in his becoming the Messiah.

Friends, there are times in our lives when looking at our circumstances, we wonder in frustration like the disciples: “Is this all there is?” But, if we follow in the steps of Jesus like the disciples and rise above our set ways and myopic view of life, we can see the broader picture with the promises it holds.

Seen in the light of our limited and distorted human vision, people and things around us may look hopeless, common and sometimes different and repulsive.

If we narrowly focus on the ‘unpleasant’ experience of yesterday, we may lose its positive implication for today and tomorrow.

Sometimes it is not until much later in life that we come to see the purpose of the events of our lives and how they all fit together. It is then that we realise how God works through such events to prepare us for the future.

Similarly, when our vision is distorted by our prejudices and stereotypes of people and things, we miss the broader picture which reveals their beauty.

Friends, most of our worries are not resolved by changed circumstances but by changed view of life.

We do not need to see new things. We need to see the same old things with new eyes. It is not about seeing new people, but seeing the same old people with new eyes.

We do not need to hear a different voice. We need to hear the same old voice with different ears.

We do not need to escape the circumstances of our life. We need to be more fully present to life’s circumstances. When this happens, life is no longer lived at the surface.

These are the transfigured moments; moments when the circumstances of our life have become windows into a new world, and we come face to face with the glory of God. Circumstances have not changed, we have changed and that seems to change everything.

In the presence of the transfigured Christ, Peter declared ‘it is good for us to be here! So let’s erect tents for Jesus and the callers from heaven, Moses and Elijah’.  He may have spoken from being mesmerised but the place of mystical experience ultimately ends up becoming the locus of worship. That explains why iconic churches sprung up in places like Fatima, Lourdes, and those heights in the Holy Land where God was encountered including on Tabor, the Mount of the transfiguration. The voice of the Father is still heard from this places today.

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