2nd Sunday Lent
Sunday 13th March 2022
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
Eight days after Jesus had told his disciples for the first time that it was necessary for him to suffer, die and rise, he took Peter, James and John and went up a high mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face altered, and his clothes become white and radiant. And look! There were two men talking with him – Moses and Elijah! They appeared in glory and were speaking about the exodus he would fulfil in Jerusalem. Yet Peter and the ones with him were overcome with sleepiness but on waking they saw his glory and that of the two men standing with him. And it happened that as they were withdrawing from him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, we should make three booths, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He didn’t know what he was saying.
Even as he spoke a cloud came down and over shadowed them. They were frightened as they entered the cloud. Then a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him!’ When the voice ceased, there was Jesus, alone. They were silent and told no-one anything of what they had seen.
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
God is my light and my salvation.
Whom shall I fear?
God is the strength of my life.
Of whom should I be afraid?
Hear, O God, the cry of my voice.
Be gracious and answer me.
When you said, ‘Seek my face.’
My heart responded, ‘Your face, O Lord, I seek.’
Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn away in anger
for you have been my help.
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
God of my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait on God with courage
and he will strengthen your heart.
Wait on God!
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving God, you have called us to share in the glory of your life. Open our minds and hearts to see the face of your son, Jesus, in the beauty and love that we know. Strengthened by that knowledge of him, may we too face resolutely the difficulties and challenges of our lives. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
Each of the Synoptic Gospels tells the story of the Transfiguration. Though there is a remarkable similarity between the accounts, the subtle differences alert us to the particular understanding of the writer. Towards the end of his Galilean ministry, Luke has the scene of Transfiguration sandwiched between Jesus’ first two predictions concerning his Passion and Resurrection.
Luke places this experience within the context of prayer as he does with significant moments in Jesus’ life. While at prayer on the mountain Moses and Elijah, two of the most extraordinary people in Jewish History, appear with him. Moses led the people out of slavery through the Red Sea, around the desert and to the edge of the Promised Land. For decades, he shepherded this difficult people through all their rebellions and disgruntlement. Faithful to God and to his people, it was to him that God entrusted the Law that was to shape the Jewish people. Elijah was the great prophet that confronted the kings and people of God when they deserted God to worship the local idols. Both Elijah and Moses suffered at the hands of the people they tried to serve, both ‘saw the face of God’, both had mysterious deaths. And here on the mountain they discuss with Jesus his ‘passing’, his exodus through suffering and death to Resurrection. In the midst of glory, the depths of Jesus’ ignominy are faced.
The disciples are clearly overcome by this experience of glory. Firstly, sleep overtakes them. When wakening, Peter blathers the first thing that comes to mind: he wants to stay, to keep this glorious moment alive. In suggesting three tents, he thinks that Jesus is another great leader like Moses and Elijah. Then when the cloud covers them they are filled with fear, which was probably closer to awe than to terror. Now the Father’s voice teaches them the proper response to his Son: ‘This is my Son, my chosen, listen to him!’
The Transfiguration scene operates as a turning point in the Gospel. As Jesus moves from Galilee to Jerusalem, the meaning of who he is and the means by which he will offer salvation is revealed to these three disciples in one overwhelming experience. In a real sense it offers a lens through which they can understand who the person of Jesus is for them.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
I’ve often wondered why God doesn’t give more moments of mystic glory. Imagine if every time you went to Eucharist, there was a moment, even a fleeting moment, when the reality of what we were celebrating so shone through the ritual we could say, ‘We saw God! Light radiated so much we were dazzled!’ Wouldn’t we be eager to return – like Peter we would want to stay and worship? ‘More, more!’ But it doesn’t happen like that. For most of us, most of the time, our rare fleeting moments of insight into what is really happening are ‘in a glass darkly’, as St Paul put it so well…or while we are falling asleep, or in a cloud, or misunderstanding what is happening – as it was for Peter and his companions. So why is Eucharist or prayer or service of God so hum-drum??
When Peter wanted to stay in that mystic moment on the mountain, for whose sake was it? Was it to worship – thereby showing his love for God? Or was it for his own pleasure – thereby showing his love of self? Or maybe it was a mixture of both elements – thereby showing just how mixed up he was, like the rest of humanity?
Jesus didn’t really ‘have’ to suffer…did he? Couldn’t God have just made everything all right and say, ‘You are forgiven,’? But then where would that have left us. Our hearts are so flawed, so mixed up that we find it hard to believe in love unless the one professing to love us shows us in some form of ‘sacrifice’. How could we believe in the love of God if God did not come close to us, feel our weakness and sin, experience our rejection and yet continue to love us, even offering forgiveness in the midst of that rejection? That level of sacrifice is what it takes to sort out our mixed up hearts – to get us to believe in God’s true love. .
And for ourselves? Would we believe in our love for God if it came so easily? If every Eucharist was fun, a pleasure to be at, would we believe we went to show our worship to God or just to have a good time for ourselves? Yes, our sacrifice for God is real – not to show God what we can do but to show ourselves just how much God means for us.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
The scene of the Transfiguration occurs at a turning point in the Gospel. The Galilean ministry is drawing to a close, the first prediction of the Passion has been given, Jesus is about to set his face for Jerusalem where he will suffer an ignominious death, followed by his Resurrection glory. But here at this turning point, the reality of Jesus is revealed in the presence of his disciples. In this glory he is shown as the Son of the Father, the one in whom Jewish faith finds it culmination, the One to whom the disciples should listen, the One in whom they will find their glory.
This is true Christian hope: not a hope that things will turn out well…or not go too badly. But a hope that states that we are made for, destined for the glory of God and that our way to come to this is through listening to the person of Jesus, not only through his teaching but also in the deep relationship of prayer. This hope is not just to be revealed at the end of our lives. It is to burn within our hearts now, transfiguring how we look at reality: how we are to understand the difficulties, challenges, sorrows and joys of life. This experience on the mountain is not a passing booster experience given to Jesus and his disciples to buck them up in the face of the coming trauma. No, it is a tearing open of reality. This is the truth in which we can anchor our lives. This is the hope that underpins all that happens. This is the hope: we are made to share the Glory of God with Jesus.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
- This Gospel episode is regarded highly in the Orthodox Church. This icon by Theophanes the Greek (click red text) is one its of the most prized presentations. Theopanes (1340-c.1410), from Muscovite Russia, was a Byzantine Greek. He was noted as the teacher of the great Andrei Rublev.
- This is a well known painting by Fra Angelico (click red text).
- In this Armenian Transfiguration (click red text) the disciples are shown falling asleep.
- John Armstrong (click red text)gives a surrealist in interpretation of the Transfiguration. These notes on the site give an understanding of his work.
“During the 1940s, Armstrong developed a new technique. He covered the surface with one single colour and then built up the painting brick by brick, as it were, using short strokes of colour with a square-headed Courbet brush, which allowed the ground to show in between as part of the finished surface. The base colour he first experimented with was black, which expressed the sombre mood of the war. However, the mood in Transfiguration is one of positive energy and hope for the future.”
- Macha Chmakoff (click red text) is a French artist whose ethereal work evokes a sense of the divine. Her website (click red text) is well worth an extended visit.
- Cornelius Monsma, originally from the Netherlands, has lived in New Zealand for decades. This painting (click red text) the glory on Jesus enveloping those near him.
- Terrance McKillip’s Transfiguration (click red text) is the third image down.
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
As you go through this week, mull on the times when you have experienced the glory of God. How has this strengthened your faith? Can you draw strength from those experiences to help you in the challenges you have to face?
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the love of your God.
Ponder on how you actually experience God in your life. What are the times and situations that you find strengthen your faith? Consider one situation and slowly recall what happens- how you prepare for it, what you do through it, how you reflect on it afterwards.
Ponder on how your faith in God is challenged in your life. What are the times and situations that you find undermine your faith? Consider one situation and slowly recall what happens. Are you able to bring the strength from the times you experience God into this difficult time in your life.
Rest in the love of your God.
Suggestions for the Programme
The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.
Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Invitation for share reflections
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
- Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence Traditional
- Christ, Be Our Light by Bernadette Farr
- Be Thou My Vision Traditional Irish
- Immortal, invisible God only wise by William Chalmers Smith
- We Walk by Faith by Henry Alford,