Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18 Romans 8:31b-34 Mark 9:2-10
A Dominican Sister reflects on the Transfiguration in the context of the recent mass shooting in the Parkland, FL, school.
Jesus led Peter, James, and John up a high mountain and he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling… The Good News that we hear on the second Sunday of Lent is the story of the transfiguration of Jesus. The marvel of this Gospel story is that we can watch as the apostles’ eyes were opened and they saw the shining presence of God alive in Jesus. Peter, James, and John experienced the awesome, graced reality that God lives within creation and claims it. In that moment, they saw God in Jesus, claiming him as beloved son.
As people of faith, we too know that God lives within us and within all creation or rather, more truthfully, that we live in God. We too know that if our hearts attend to God, if we ascend the mountain, if our eyes are opened, then we too can see the shining and sacred in our brothers and sisters. Jesus taught us that we are to live seeing God as present – the Kingdom of God is at hand. Thomas Merton reminds us of that when he acclaimed: “There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun”.
In the dictionary, transfigured is defined as to “transform into something more beautiful or elevated, such as, the glow of the sunrise transfigured the whole landscape”. The landscape remains the same but greater beauty is present to those who see the sunrise. Recognizing the nearness of the Divine leads to wisdom, wonder, and new possibilities. Peter, James, and John saw Moses and Elijah (law and prophets) present with Jesus; they saw with new eyes their Jewish heritage, their Jewish faith. Perhaps that is why they were able to love this Jesus who criticized their religious leaders, who traveled outside of Jewish lands (Samaria, Tyre, Sidon), who cleansed their Temple, and who healed on the Sabbath. And because of seeing all possibilities in God, later they were able to recognize the Holy Spirit in the gentiles after Pentecost. What Good News!
While I was writing and praying over this reflection, teenagers and teachers were senselessly shot and killed during their school day in Parkland, Florida. The news was filled with the young faces and stories of heroic students and teachers. I was shocked and sickened; I shared in the sorrow of these families. Afterwards, the teens began to talk with other teens across the country (#neveragain) and to share their experience. They marched and carried signs with the inscription, Am I Next, and begged for gun control laws.
Meanwhile, the adult politicians in charge of the social order were sacralizing the second amendment, decrying the youth of the shooter, bemoaning the mystery of mental illness, criticizing the armed deputy who remained outside – calling him coward, and desiring to restrict assault rifles to those over age 21.
But the Drama Club at the Stoneman Douglas High School was writing and performing a song called Shine with words of determination, hope, possibilities, and unity. They sang, you may have brought the dark but together we will shine a light … we will be something special, we will shine … together we have the power to change the world around us. Listen as they sing and see in your mind’s eye these young men and these young women being transfigured. Through them, we are seeing this tragedy with God’s eyes, who is claiming them as beloved sons and daughters.
The teens speak a wise, demanding message, their eyes are opened. These teen citizens of this country are seeing other possibilities. They are singing, we can hug a little tighter, we can love a little more. Truly, they do shine and it is time for the rest of us to recognize and celebrate this moment as a gospel message for today.
Karen Rossman, OP