The story is told of a 75-year old woman who in a vision, spoke to God and asked him, “God, how much time do I have to live?” God said, “35 more years.” And so for one whole year, the old woman did everything to make her face look beautiful and her body reshaped into that old Coca-Cola bottle figure. She underwent plastic surgery several times: she had a face-lift and had her nose reshaped, she underwent liposuction where her body bulged in the wrong places. In other words, – a complete body transformation or makeover.
One day, after leaving the hospital, confident and feeling as beautiful as ever, she was hit by a car and died instantly. When she entered St. Peter’s gate, she walked over to God and said, “God, what happened? I thought you said I had another 35 years!” God replied, “SORRY, I DID NOT RECOGNIZE YOU!”
Today’s Gospel recounts another transformation, although of a different kind -- that of our Lord Jesus. On a high mountain, Mt. Tabor, Jesus was transfigured before his three disciples Peter, James and John. They saw Jesus, with His glorified body aglow with light, his face radiant as the sun, and his clothes dazzling white, and as the gospel account says: whiter than any bleach could make it.
And after a conversation of Jesus with the great Old Testament personalities Moses and Elijah, they were overshadowed by a cloud. From the cloud they heard God’s voice saying: “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased. LISTEN to Him.”
This experience of the three disciples on the mountain drastically changed their outlook as Christ’s divinity was revealed to them. They realized what the future held not only for Jesus but for them. They knew that this world was not all there was for them. They knew that one day, they, too, would be transfigured and would have glorified bodies. But first they had to follow the clear command of the Father: “LISTEN to Jesus.”
Scripture scholars say that the transfiguration of Jesus took place before His passion and death in order to strengthen the faith of the disciples when the time came for them to witness the sufferings the Lord would undergo and to give them an inkling of Christ’s victory over death at His resurrection.
Throughout the rest of Lent and Holy Week, the Church helps us that we may listen to Jesus. The Church invites us to look, not at the transfigured Jesus, but at the disfigured Jesus, and to contemplate the magnitude of the love that made Him endure His sufferings:
· The whipping and lashing that made numerous wounds on his sacred body,
· The crowning with thorns that pricked and bloodied His head,
· The heavy weight of the cross on His shoulders as He inched His way along the winding streets of Jerusalem,
· The excruciating pain as the nails were driven into his hands and feet,
· And the gasping for breath as he hung painfully for three long hours from the cross until He died on the mountain of Calvary.
“Greater love than this no man has, than to give his life for his friends.” John 15:13
This love God has for us calls for a conversion of our hearts and minds and our seeking a more intimate relationship with Him. Conversion is our turning to God. It happens continuously. We stumble by failing to keep God first and foremost in our lives. But we can get back up and try again, thanks to Christ’s redeeming love. God awaits our return, forgives us and gives us another chance. But conversion will happen only if we will LISTEN to Jesus.
Unfortunately, there are many forces that distract us from paying attention to the Lord, such as the temptations of the flesh and the allures of worldly pleasures, as the old woman in our story succumbed to.
The Church suggests that we LISTEN to Jesus this Lent principally through prayer and the sacraments, by practicing acts of self-denial such as by fasting, and by doing acts of charity for those in need.
· When we spend time with God in prayer, whether in private or in Church – we are LISTENING to Him.
· When we fight temptations to sin, or confess them when we fall -- we are LISTENING to Him.
· When we fast and deny ourselves of some things our bodies desire for love of the Lord– we are listening to Him.
· When we do acts of mercy towards the poor, the sick and the needy -- we are LISTENING to Him.
· When we love and forgive others, including our enemies -- we are LISTENING to Him.
· When we get involved in parish ministries that make us know and love God more and serve others -- we are LISTENING to Him.
Each effort to listen to Jesus will transform us little by little into being Christ-like. And if we are Christ-like, we can be sure that, unlike the old woman in our story, God the Father will recognize us –
And we will have our own transfiguration on the last day. #
But, as it is written: "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him" 1 Cor 2:9