Hope is fundamental to life and faith. In hope we journey from what we are to what we long to become. Lent itself is a pilgrimage of hope, a reaching out for all that we shall become in Christ, our risen Lord.
This journey from promise to fulfilment is set before us in the ancient covenant that bound Abram to the God of Israel.
At a time when Abram lived in the insecurity of a nomadic life, a loving God invited him to entrust himself to a promise whose fulfilment lay in an uncertain future. “Look up to heaven and count the stars if you can. Such will be your descendants.”
For a barren couple, whose entire security depended on the continuation of the family, this promise symbolised every human longing. Faith, and faith alone, enabled them to enter into the promise, to begin their journey. They were called to surrender their frustration and disappointment, not to some vague daydream, but to the God who would accomplish what lay beyond their declining strength. “Abram put his faith in the Lord, who counted this as making him justified.”
For us, as for Abram, the first step must be to entrust ourselves, in a deeply personal way, to the life promised by the Father in his Son, Jesus Christ. We whose sinful lives are a frustrated longing to live Christ’s goodness must abandon ourselves to God’s promise that “he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of Christ’s glorious body. He will do this by the same glorious power with which he can subdue the universe.” This is the first and most fundamental step both for Lent and for faith itself. Any other Lenten resolutions, or hopes for the future, will come to nothing without this surrender to Christ’s transforming presence.
Luke’s account of the Transfiguration describes a turning point for Peter, James and John. Events in the ministry of Jesus were to turn rapidly towards Jerusalem and his approaching death. To prepare the disciples for what lay ahead, the Transfiguration foreshadowed the promise that Christ’s Resurrection holds for all believers.
Through this experience the disciples saw clearly, for the first time, the true nature of the one who had called them, and the promise that his death and Resurrection would achieve in them. They realised that in Jesus they were in the presence of God, and that in this presence all longing ceased. “Master, it is wonderful for us to be here.”
They heard a voice proclaiming the Father’s love for the Son: “This is my Son, the chosen one.” They understood that they themselves, through faith, were called to share in this love, to become the children of God. This profound experience prepared the disciples for all that would lie ahead as they descended with Jesus from the mountain. They had glimpsed the promise. Increasingly, Jesus would insist that the path to its fulfilment would be a faith that was willing to share his Cross.
We do not live our lives on the mountain of Christ’s Transfiguration. We face the daily challenges of our own sinfulness and frailty. We are frequently wounded in an imperfect world. At times we feel disheartened, both with ourselves and the world in which we live.
The Transfiguration revealed that Christ’s presence has the power to transform sinful lives. In faith, we commit our lives to Christ, knowing that he leads us through every cross to the glory of his Resurrection.