Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel
by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, February 19, 2012:
First Reading: 2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm: Psalm 50:1-6
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Gospel: Mark 9:2-9
I often approach Transfiguration Sunday by thinking about ways to transfigure myself. In just a few days, we enter the season of Lent, that season of ash and penitence. Lent gets us ready for the joy of Easter. Lent gives us the perfect opportunity for self-exploration, to analyze our behaviors and beliefs that keep us from being Resurrection People.
What do we need to transfigure ourselves? We could start with the basics: daily prayer (ideally several times a day), daily spiritual reading, weekly worship, tithing of our resources. We could surround ourselves with people who lead us to be our better selves, while we look for ways to help others be their best selves. We can be the path that helps other people find their way to God. We can practice radiating love. We can be the agents of God's transfiguring power.
You may say, "I can hardly get out of bed every morning, and now you want me to radiate love???" You may say, "I can hardly pay my bills and now I have to be the agent of God's transfiguring power?"
This year, I, too, find myself feeling exhausted. I think of adopting a Lenten discipline that says no to more activities. Instead of exploring a new spiritual discipline, as I have done in many past years, maybe I will say no to adding a new discipline to my schedule.
But before I get too busy rejecting all sorts of possibilities, maybe it’s good to return to the idea of transfiguration. How do I wish to be transfigured? What would make me glow with God’s goodness?
I’ve been reading Lauren Winner’s latest book, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, which explores the life of a woman who has made her living as a professional Christian of sorts who has a bit of a mid-faith crisis (for a complete review, go here). The part of the book that resonated most with me was her experiment with giving up anxiety. She tries ignoring her anxiety in 15 minute increments. She decides to pray when she feels anxious, sometimes praying the Jesus prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner"), sometimes a prayer she finds in the back of a prayer book. She tries repeating the word "One" until the anxiety ebbs.
She's clear on why it's important to let go of the anxiety, quoting Francis de Sales: "The anxious heart, in its flailings, loses its hold on whatever graces God has bestowed upon it, and is sapped of the strength 'to resist the temptations of the Evil One, who is all the more ready to fish . . . in troubled waters'" (page 90).
I found myself underlining this part of the book more than any other, which makes me think that I still have work to do when it comes to anxiety. I say that I trust that God will provide for me, yet my anxiety shows that I’m not as transfigured as I wish to be.
Soon, we celebrate Ash Wednesday, a day that reminds us that we are here on this earth for a very short time. Rather than get morose about this subject, we can use this as a prompt to ask ourselves what's important in our lives. Are we living daily lives that are in sync with those values? How can we make adjustments to ensure that we are not wasting our brief time here?
God promises to transfigure our lives from dust and ash to living light. Again and again, God declares transfiguring love: not just for Jesus, but for all of us. In a world that rejects us in so many ways, it's good to remember that God claims us, every day. In God’s creation, every day is Transfiguration Sunday.