Choose slavery (other people’s expectations)… or LIFE, shining with joy and generosity
The Transfiguration event in today’s Gospel is familiar to us, and maybe it’s “brightness” hides some deeper teachings in it. We focus too much on Christ shining in the presence of the Apostles, and forget about God’s desire to help us shine for the good of others and ourselves.
Lent should be seen as a journey of, or towards, personal growth (change for improvement). I was drawn to this way of thinking by the First Reading where we hear Abram invited by God to go to a new place: for us, it’s less about a distant place, and more about a new way of living – but leaving certain friends and comfort is not always easy!
Jesus Christ was transfigured (primarily) for the benefit of the Apostles: to strengthen their faith for the future “challenges” that would come their way.
The other purpose of the Transfiguration was to encourage the humanity of Jesus. The presence of Moses and Elijah call to mind the powerful saving actions of God in the past: they encourage us to look back over our lives and recognise where God has done great things.
Last week’s readings reminded us of the need to go away from our comforts to gain strength for the future challenges we meet. One of the key challenges we all face is “peer pressure”.
Despite it being a major issue in our teenage years, where we are searching for identity and group acceptance, it follows us into adulthood – perhaps more so for recent generations, because life has become materially easier for us: survival is something we fight less for.
When we think about the Lenten journey in this “light” of shining for others, it takes some stress off ourselves to become perfect so that ‘God will like us again,’ or ‘like us more better’! (intended bad English). People needing inspiration often find it easier to follow someone who is still a bit naughty, but on the way to the right place! (rough diamond/lovable rogue.)
Nothing in life is free. Sydney Harris said this: Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better. ie. a free ride. Perhaps the stress here should be our fear of rejection by friends, family or society.
In our spiritual and moral life, many times we enjoy being “naughty” or selfish, but we don’t want the negatives that being “naughty” and selfish brings to our lives.
The Transfiguration event gives us a purpose, a great reason, for changing our negative ways, because many people in the world have lost hope: they need to see someone SHINE with joy, gentleness, acceptance and forgiveness of others.
How many young men and women have been “radicalised” by terrorists? Surely, a large part of the radicalisation is to give them a “great” purpose in life.
I can’t think of anything greater in life than to help empower others to be great: and we do that by being joyful, truthful and helping others to create beauty.
The following quote also sounds true, and explains our reluctance to change, as well as our desperate need to change: The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress (Charles Kettering).
Unfortunately, the leaders that bring change often suffer before the change comes (eg. Jesus). We can think of parents & teachers being “hated” by their children at times for their guidance.
Because people hate change, it’s important that we promote changes that SHINE through our joy and gentleness towards others. To do that is not easy! It requires us to feel loved already, so that we do not respond angrily when people reject our message or even our presence.
The funny story below reveals some of the “processes” we go through trying to find the change we need, and then giving up out of impatience and uncertainty about what exactly we need:
Husband was sitting in one of the chairs provided for men outside the ladies’ changing room in the local clothing shop. After 30 minutes and 6 changes of clothes, the wife came out of the changing room one more time. Husband looked at her and immediately said, “wow, that looks great on you! Get that one.” Wife replied, “this is what I was wearing when we came in.”
Fortunately, Lent teaches us which “clothes” will work first time, every time: prayer, fasting and generosity to those in need (spiritually or emotionally or materially). If in doubt, start with the generosity of our time and resources. But, often, prayer helps us to be generous as we reflect on how God has helped us through others, often without charge!
By Gerard Conlan, OMI