The Lifelong Process of Rising, of Conversion

Last week we have the Temptation of Jesus Christ, today we have His Transfiguration. Every year, the first and second weeks of Lent are always the same, Temptation and then Transfiguration, reaching its highest point in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday. Such is the beauty of the Season of Lent that speaks so well about our life. When there is desolation, there comes also consolation; from every defeat and failure come also victory and triumph. We appreciate more the joys of life after going through some sorrows and pain like the leaves that are greenest after the rains. And my favorite, the stars are brightest when the nights are darkest. We call these “tensions” that make our lives beautiful and more colorful, like spices that bring out the flavor of food.
Life goes through a series of cycles, of tensions and process that lead to growth and maturity. Because of these tensions, there are always kinks and hassles along the way making life so difficult. And sometimes, when tensions are so strong or tight, we snap and fall. This is the reason why we have seasons of spring, summer, fall and winter or dry and wet here in southeast Asia to give us some “break” or to recover and move on with life. The same is true with our liturgical calendar where we also go through cycles of seasons with specific readings and prayers as well as rites and rituals to show the rhythm of life. But unlike the seasons that are repetitive, our liturgical calendar goes through repetitive cycles too but with a definitive direction- always upwards toward God! Hence, every liturgical season like Lent is a reminder that transfiguration or transformation or conversion, and yes, “spiritual renewal”, is always a process and never a one-shot deal. We do not become a saint right away after a confession or a prayer meeting or even a near-death experience. There is always that tension of Temptation-Transfiguration. The same with us today wherein there is always that challenge to ascend and rise above our selves but at the same time, we know from experience the many risks and temptations to always fall and backslide. Life is difficult, M. Scott Peck asserted in his classic “Road Less Travelled” but we have to forge on in the journey. And here lies the beauty of the liturgical seasons especially Lent: Jesus Christ is always with us, accompanying us in every temptation to be one with Him in our transfiguration.
The question is, are we also with Jesus Christ? When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”(Mt.17:9)
How do we rise and be not afraid in life, in our “spiritual renewal” or conversion and transfiguration? We first go back to the basic teaching of Jesus in fighting every temptation which is to be faithful to God’s word because “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt.4:4) In the first reading we have heard the call of Abraham by God to “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great, and I will bless you.”(Gen.12:1-2) This part of the Old Testament is significant because it is the start of God’s direct intervention in man’s history after the fall. He called Abraham out of his land to a better land, a sort of reversal of God’s curse after the fall into a blessing to be fulfilled in Christ Jesus. Every day God is calling us to leave our life of sinfulness and various forms of evil. He invites us to a life of blessings for it is His desire that we be saved, that we be extricated from misery and sorrows. Every day God is speaking to us but we refuse to listen, we refuse to stop and pause even a little while just to hear Him whisper to us how much He loves us. We are afraid of being silent, of being left behind by others. We are afraid of letting go of so many things because we are afraid to go hungry and thirsty, we are afraid of what others would say about us. This second Sunday of Lent, the three disciples heard loud and clear the voice of the Father, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”(Mt. 17:5) After His Transfiguration, that is when Jesus would repeatedly tell His disciples about His pasch, inviting them to forget themselves to come and follow Him to the Cross. We learn later that they were so terrified and in fact left Him on the Cross except for St. John. But, Jesus understood them so well that on Easter, he came to see them anew and in a sense told them, “Rise and be not afraid.” It does not really matter with God how many times we have fallen but how many times we have tried to rise again, muster all courage to follow Him.
In the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared speaking with Jesus to show us that God continues to converse with us, from the Old Testament to the New Testament and in the Church. Being faithful to God’s word means continuously studying and praying the Sacred Scriptures that we may understand it afresh, not just memorize every verse like a parrot. Last week, we have reflected how God’s word may be used by the devil to suit his evil designs that unfortunately continues to this day! What a tragedy that the word of God is invoked for war, to hate and condemn homosexuals, and lately, to justify death in solving crimes! When the voice said “This is my beloved Son…listen to him,” the call is for us be one with the suffering Christ and not to crucify Him again with EJK and capital punishment. St. Paul lovingly tells Timothy and us today, “Bear your hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” (2 Tim.1:8) God fulfills His words and promises. He is asking us to be patient, to always rise and be not afraid of what others would say, of what would happen to us when persecuted. Life is a test of our faith and fidelity to God. As the second Sunday of Lent opens to us another door closer to God’s innermost room, we are called to avoid shortcuts for we cannot truly experience the joy of Easter, of Transfiguration without “passing over” Good Friday. A blessed week to everyone!
Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan