Sunday, March 12, 2017

Changing Our Lives

Raphael's Transfiguration
As we “spring forward,” as winter’s chill changes in many parts of the country to the warmth of spring, the Lenten season calls for a similar change within ourselves: letting the coldness of a self-centered life be transformed into a more God-centered, other-centered life of love, forgiveness, compassion and peacemaking.

Last Sunday we were in the wilderness in the presence of Jesus and the tempter. Evil seemed to abound. This week we're atop a mountain in the presence of God: Jesus’s transfiguration. Good abounds more.  Lent is a time to affirm our belief in the presence of God in our world, in the good news that Jesus Christ not only overcame evil but also gave us this Lenten time to believe more in the power of the good news than in the sadness of the bad.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta showed in words and deeds that holiness is not a luxury for the few; it is meant for all.  One of many stories: seeing a so-called “untouchable” dying on the sidewalk, she put her hands together as in prayer and bowed with a Hindu greeting: Namaste.  She saw the image and glory of God underneath this unkempt and emaciated man.  And, as the story goes, he looked at her and uttered his dying words:  I lived with animals and now I die with the angels.  Yes, to see God in other people despite a “distressing disguise” is to live a holy life.

Jesus had to live by faith, trusting completely in his Father's unconditional love for him.  That faith made Jesus a transformative person, ushering in the kingdom of God. That faith was tested on the cross.  To quote theologian Karl Rahner: “Jesus surrendered himself in his death unconditionally to the absolute mystery that he calls his Father, into whose hands he committed his existence when in the "night" of his death and God-forsakenness he was deprived of everything that is otherwise regarded as the content of a human existence: life, honor, acceptance and so forth.”

Jesus died as he had lived: with faith, with hope.  Yes, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)  And God transfigured Jesus into a new kind of spiritual embodiment.

Just as Jesus became a transformative person in ushering in the kingdom of God, so too Jesus calls us, his co-workers, to be transformative people as well.  We, as co-workers with God, have to do our best to transform unfairness and prejudice into fairness; to transform hate into peace, indifference into compassion, sorrow into joy and despair into hope.

Yes, we have to work to transform self-centeredness into Other-centeredness so that we, like Christ, can be transfigured into a new kind of spiritual embodiment.  Let this be our prayer for Lent:

Forgiving those we don’t want to forgive;
having compassion;
making peace;
caring for those in need, even though it’s inconvenient;
persevering when we are exhausted;
carrying our crosses when we want to run away from them; and
loving when the last thing we want to do is love.

Just practicing this prayer will make us transformative persons in the lives of people.

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