In Ireland, the first day of February is the feast of Saint Bridget and heralds the beginning of the season of spring. Spring is a wondrous time! It announces a new time, a time of rebirth after the dark, sparse, weary and cold winter. We see the miracle of snowdrops cutting through the dark icy earth to show off their white gown, tipped with green. The beholder looks with wonder at the new delicate shoots and rejoices yes it is spring again! It awakens hope as we look on at the changes and new life in our landscape. It also awakens hope in the landscape of our soul, in the possibility of transformation in our daily life.
I love this gospel for the second Sunday of Lent where the Evangelist, Mark tells us the story of the transfiguration of Jesus – a spring time for Jesus. It is interesting to remember that the word “Lent” in old English means springtime. How do I equate Lent, springtime, transformation and the transfiguration of Jesus?
Jesus became human. It is said he was like us in all things except sin. In being human he did not have full, clear knowledge but like us in life, probably struggled with what he was doing in life and what he was meant to do. He discovered bit by bit his destiny or what the will of God was for him.
In this story he brings three of his friends up a high mountain away from the crowds. Mountains usually symbolise either a place of struggle like in the story of Abraham in the first reading, or a place to pray for guidance or a place of revelation. In this scene it is a place of disclosure, transformation, change and insight. The revelation was for both Jesus and his friends Peter, James and John.
Jesus received the insight that he was in the tradition of the prophets. He was like Moses called to lead his people in a new way and in a new relationship with God his father, Abba. He was to be there for all the ordinary folk in life, in their struggles, confusion and search for meaning. On the top of the mountain he understood that he was doing the Father’s will. It gave him the affirmation that he was loved by God and that God would be with him as he faced going to Jerusalem and death.
Peter, though he said he didn’t know what to say had to say something so he blurts out as is his style – let’s build something permanent because deep down we, similar to Peter, don’t like change or uncertainty. But like the brave snowdrops when we break through the barriers of fear or challenge something new happens – a new relationship, new event or new insight that brings us beyond the past into the present.
Jesus prepared for the transfiguration by withdrawing, going up a mountain, getting support from friends so likewise Lent, Springtime, invites us to withdraw, prepare, take stock in order to recognise and be tuned in to the possibility and grace of transformation.
Sister Helen Mary Harmey, OP