Fr. Baran Reflects on the Transfiguration

In this brief reflection, Fr. John Baran, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Fairfield, writes that the Transfiguration is an opportunity to accept the challenges of the “newness” in our lives when the news is not always good:

The story of the Transfiguration is proclaimed every Lent and the usual message taken from it is one of encouragement and hope. The glory evident in Jesus will one day be shared by his followers. All well and good, I guess. Keep the faith, keep your nose clean and your eye on the prize, and one day, the shine of heaven will fill you. Not a bad deal at all, but I think there must be more to this if the Church insists we hear it at the beginning of every Lent.

The transfiguration of Jesus certainly shows a new image of God, a “newness” which God invites us to perceive, even in our lives now. That’s probably not too hard to do when there are new children in the family, when a terrific job is beginning, when a relationship is fresh and exciting. But kids soon move out of the house, jobs get tedious, and conversation goes flat. What then? Does the God of newness go into hibernation?

Sr. Joan Chittister recently wrote an interesting take on this: God is indeed in the newness of our lives, but sometimes that’s right where we do not want God to be. After all, the new things in our lives are not always cute babies, starting a dream job, or holding hands on the beach. Sometimes, we’re sifting among the rocks like in that T.S. Eliot poem, beseeching God to receive our cries. The God of the past is past. There is only one way out, says Chittister, and that is forward. In the failed relationship, in the illness, in the death of a loved one, there is the God of newness, inviting us to trust and move ahead.

To be invited to begin again, to rethink, to start over, is what the practice of Lent is all about. It is a movement, a continual movement, of leaving what we were before and what we are beginning now, trusting all the while in the presence of God in that journey, a God of surprises.