Experiencing the Transfiguration

4 March 2007. The 2nd Sunday of Lent
Luke 9, 28-36 Experiencing the Transfiguration

There is one big fact in the Gospel story today: after the Transfiguration experience, Jesus set out to Jerusalem and to the Cross. Jesus knew that the consummation of His whole life, the step towards the final destiny of all of His principles and His work, was in Jerusalem. So before He set His eyes and took His final step, Jesus prayed and then had this tremendous experience with God. I believe there was something significant that happened in the mountain of the Transfiguration. It was in that experience that Jesus was assured that the direction He was about to take was correct. He was assured by the great law-giver himself, Moses, and the greatest prophet of Israel, Elijah and finally, God who said, “This is my Beloved Son.”

So today, in the 2nd Sunday of Lent, we are asked to look at our transfiguration experiences. Let me first illustrate with examples what I call our own transfiguration experiences.

I remember a conversation I had with my Dad — who incidentally celebrated his first day in heaven yesterday (March 3). When I was very young, my mom who is a pharmacist had all of us vaccinated. I never liked needles, and I was afraid of them. I would ask Dad to stay beside me, and he would assure me that vaccination was indeed necessary for my well-being and my health. With his comforting words, I would just hold on my Dad’s arms and then I was ready for that inevitable pain that a needle prick would give me. Therefore, when one is assured that the darkness and pain to be faced is a necessary step for growth, and then one experiences a transfiguration. This kind of darkness is something we should not fear.

On the other hand, there are dangerous experiences of pain and darkness. These kinds of darkness we definitely need to fear to protect ourselves from anything that would wound, destroy, abuse, torture, or kill us. Wherever there is an intimidation or a brutal death in any form, there is a dangerous darkness.

But there is holy darkness or a holy pain: this darkness is a kind of darkness we just don’t want to have, but which is essential for our growth. It stands in the way of our comfortableness (such as vaccination) or convenience (such as taking the long queue to the jeepney bay as part of our college days), our familiarity (such as being with people whom we have to be nice, but we don’t personally know, like our clients), our security (taking the dark road to the dormitory), our desire to control (such as when we are not anymore in control like the decisions that our children make), or our need to “have it all”. The emotions associated with this holy pain are the ones we often experience in times of grief because such darkness means losing a part of ourselves. But in the face of this fear, we have to let go and embrace the fear, the pain, and the darkness.

But it takes a great leap, like the great Transfiguration experience of Jesus. It does become easier to live in the darkness the more we can see that this phase of our lives, is just that, a phase, a necessary part of our humanity, and that eventually it will pass — but we have pass through it and go through it. A friend of mine once asked me if the pain and turmoil he was experiencing ever ceased when his father died a year ago. A few months ago, after he had been through the darkness, he told me: “The one thing that I kept clinging to and which gave me hope was when you answered my question, “Does it get better?” with “Yes, it does. It may take awhile but it does get better. I have been there. My dad died years ago.”

But we must also believe that we will never be exactly the same as we were before the darkness. When one leaves, whether in a goodbye, a break-up, or death, we are never the same again. This life event or situation will affect our life. Thus this is another reason for opening up to change — to finally take the leap, to finally risk, to finally face your Jerusalem, to finally carry the cross just as Jesus did after the Transfiguration. It is in these crucial Transfiguration moments that we have the courage, like a confessed drug dependent, finally saying, “I need rehab. I am sick. I am going to go through it.” In the Lord of Rings trilogy, it is what Gandalf called, “The sigh before the storm.” But the storm is necessary. Because at the end, there is a surprising positive development. There is the Resurrection.

We have a proof in UP. Years ago, former UP President Noel Soriano had a stroke and was paralyzed. He faced his paralysis but did not give up. He went through art therapy. He went through the physical and psychological pain. Today, at the Delaney Hall, he had produced beautiful watercolor paintings. His life is a testimony that our transfiguration experiences leads to another world.

Let us reflect on our lives: What are our experiences of the transfiguration. What part of our lives that needs our attention, but giving it our focus will cause us pain? For example when we experience the break-up of a relationship and we need to face the reality of being alone and lonely; the experience of goodbyes whether death or a temporary separation; having failed and owning up to one’s accountability.

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