Saturday, February 27, 2021

Transfigured to Strengthen and be Confirmed

2nd Sunday of Lent: 28 February 2021

Readings: Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Psalm 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19; Romans 8:31b-34; Mark 9:2-10

The icon of the Transfiguration - Byzantine
I. Transfiguration experience in order to encourage and strengthen
 
On this Second Sunday of Lent, the liturgical readings invite us to ask a question. Why is it that God continues to test people of their faithfulness? Whether it is Abraham in the first reading or Jesus on the Mount Tabor with an experience of transfiguration, God reveals to others what kind of faithfulness He expects from his own. In fact, more than to Jesus, the transfiguration experience is certainly a short in the arm for the three disciples namely Peter, James and John. Just before Jesus would go through the transfiguration on that high mountain, Jesus had predicted his imminent and violent death (Mk 8: 31-38). Perhaps, this whole episode of transfiguration must have been a consoling experience to his disciples in the midst of a bad dream that Jesus was speaking about. This experience opened the closed minds of the disciples about Jesus, moreover, it opened to them Christ's glory and that he is truly God's beloved son. This timely encounter changes everything including their opinion about Jesus and who really Jesus is. In fact, what Peter had testified about Jesus when they were asked: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:27-30). Here on this mountain, everything comes to a happy end. The faith of the disciples in Jesus is confirmed, strengthened and validated. Encountering others in a particular setup or situation changes us. Oftentimes, the untimely meetings, incidents, locations either confirm or consolidate what we have been thinking or reflecting about for a long time. 

St Ignatius of Loyola narrates such a mystical experience which gave him clarity about many things in his Autobiography [30:2] at the river Cardoner in Manresa, Spain in 1522 soon after his conversion experience“He sat down for a little while with his face to the river—Cardoner—which was running deep. While he was seated there, the eyes of his understanding began to be opened; though he did not see any vision, he understood and knew many things, both spiritual things and matters of faith and learning, and this was with so great an enlightenment that everything seemed new to him. It was as if he were a new man with a new intellect.”

Such kind of solid experiences of grace which theologian Fr Karl Rahner would call "consolation without previous cause" which, strengthen our faith in the Divine Master. We feel through such moments clarity beyond doubt and we are absorbed by his divine illumination, wisdom or courage. We are ready to make alterations in our lifestyle because we are sure that it is God who is leading us. No intimidations, sufferings, failures or even the thought of our unsuitability cannot stop us from taking the step that we have already decided upon. This is what precisely the three disciples felt about themselves and are ready to journey with Jesus rest of their lives.

II. Suffering that Shapes us

One of the prominent incidents in the call of Abraham is God's challenge to sacrifice his only son Issac. Certainly, God probes the faithfulness of Abraham. Even though, this episode (Genesis 22:1-18) might be too much for us to take in what we need to learn is that for God nothing is impossible. When God wants something from us concretely, none of us can say no to it including our suffering, pain or even our death. The life of Abraham, father of our faith was not an easy one. He had experienced the loneliness from his dear and near one's, once he began his journey to an unknown land, he sees the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in front of his eyes (Gen 19), his nephew Lot’s wife in that fire turned into a pillar of salt (Gen 19:12–29), he sees no apparent heir or progeny, and now the call to sacrifice his only legitimate son, Issac, etc. In the midst of such despair, Abraham sees his future only in One God. The tests of God only strengthen his faith in order to face the trials of life.  

The vision of God is attainable in our ordinary lives when we give time to God and others. Lenten Season invites us to put the interests of others in front of us. If we are ready to share in Christ's cross then we will share in his resurrection as well. With all their fears of Christ’s passion and their own, the disciples climbed the mountain however this vision of glory was given to sustain them and to keep them listening to Jesus, however difficult his words might be. Lent is surely a time to discipline ourselves in this regard especially to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

III. Cross is not the end of the story

St Paul's bold words to the Romans should strengthen us: "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31). Often we hear many voices which try to tell us how to live and how to know God personally. Some of these are helpful; many are not. For St Paul God is our judge but he is on our side. At the beginning of this week, we celebrated the feast of the Chair of St Peter. A traditional feast that celebrates the authority and the unity St Peter commands. No one can deny that St Peter was a witness to the sufferings of Christ. His discipleship was shaped and strengthened through his smooth and rough encounters with Jesus. Because of his deep attachment to his Master, Peter often got confused and miss understood. However, his genuine faith and carefully nurtured relationship with Jesus made him one of the closest disciples and had the rarest opportunity in witnessing Jesus in his glory.   

As Christians, we are called not to give up when adversaries come up in our lives. We are to be bold like St Peter, St Paul and many other apostles. If we have truly embraced Jesus, then we cannot say no to him when we begin to sink. He is there always to lift us up. Pope Francis in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, invites us to give witness to Christ through our life of "encounter." He says: “To speak of a ‘culture of encounter’ means that we, as a people, should be passionate about meeting others, seeking points of contact, building bridges, planning a project that includes everyone.” (FT #216). Probably this task is indeed difficult and painful in today's world. But we have to get our "hands dirty" which involves many hardships, sacrifices, wounds and tears.   Cross is not the end of the story but a beginning of a future, a future in God. Because God will undoubtedly give us everything we need. So in the coming weeks, let us try to see all those we encounter as they really are, precious and beloved by God. We pray that these encounters, whether in person or virtual, may inspire us to work together to make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of others.

Questions for Reflections:

1. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” – how does that sound for you?

2. How might the sufferings you yourself have witnessed helped to shape your own discipleship?

3. What might Jesus say about you as he speaks in your favour? Have you felt anytime, Jesus is pleading on your behalf?

Prayer:

God of compassion and love, be my guide through all that is dark and doubtful. Be my guard against all that threatens my spirit’s welfare. Be my strength in time of testing. Help me to listen to your word and to see you in all people that I meet. May I approach all encounters with an open heart and work together with others to transform our world. Gladden my heart with your peace; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

27th February 2021

11 comments:

Joilin said...

Dear Olvin,
I'm really impressed with your work. The extra effort you put into this extraordinary reflections will surely make a big difference.
You truly captivate the readers with a clear,concise, engaging, hugely beneficial and well thought out presentation which I admire. I especially liked your use of Audio cues. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Very true father. Cross is not the end of the story. It is the beginning of a future, a future in God. I can see that happening in my life. Nice reflections father. Thank you for inspiring me.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful message Father👍🙏-" to see all that I encountered as precious and beloved by God". It's challenging yet it will make a difference. Your reflections very much reflect your deep experience of the Lord and your positive outlook towards everything.
Thank you Father. May the Lord grant you good health
Very well appreciated by the many receivers of your reflections

Vincy said...

It's really helpful and insightful message my dear Olvin. Incredibly honest and refreshing thoughts! Thanks a million Olvin for your reflections looks great!

Prema said...

Your reflections seems to be a great creator as it takes the one who reads repeatedly higher and brighter, filling us with the wisdom of God. Very truly I tell you, every Saturday i love to leave behind my busy schedule to read and share this reflections of yours with others. Otherwise I have to answer number of calls searching after your reflections. Who knows what effect it has got in the lives of others in the long run! Let's continue to do the needful right now. Thank you Olvin.

Lovya said...

Thought provoking insights! Thank you for raising my heart and mind to God my savior.

John E. John said...

Thank you for the beautiful reflection, Fr. Olvin!

As you said, there are some moments of extraordinary grace which confirms us in our paths undertaken for the greater glory of God. Totally unmerited, without previous cause!

Lord, your grace is sufficient for us.

Vincy said...

Hi Olvin,
Just now i am back from a prayer service for Catholic youth in our parish. Your reflections was the centre of excellent motivational quotes for them as we had number of participants appreciating over the reflections and one should see their enthusiasm to note down the touching points... They are 45 of them but your reflections surely reaches many more in their surroundings within no time I suppose... big thanks to dearest beloved brother Olvin... for gifting me this wonderful reflections!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much father. My friends at London said wow super reflection. Really awesome father

Anonymous said...

Beautiful reflections dear Fr. Olwin. May God continue to bless you to instill a ray of hope and courage through your reflections and prayers

Johnvi said...

As the saying goes, " Think before you speak and read before you think."
Dear Olvin, your reflections is ever green that I keep reading before I begin to submit what's Me to God in my personal prayers. Almost all your reflections are very inspiring and they are all not reflections but events in my life that keeps me closer to God.