Transfiguration Through Our Trials
2nd Sunday of Lent
March 5, 2023
“While Jesus was praying,
his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.”
At the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor (Matthew 17:1-9), we see the Lord unveiled, as he really is: a being of light, the Son of God in all his glory. Of course he keeps his glory hidden on earth, precisely so that our free-will is not violated. We will never see Christ as he is in his Godhead and glory while we are in life on earth, or we would no longer be able to truly choose him in freedom.
Peter and the disciples intensely want to stay in this moment, the moment of glory, the mountaintop experience that Christ has revealed momentarily to them. They want to experience the transfiguration the easy way. But there is another way, a better way: the way of transfiguration in the Scriptures is usually worked out by the trials we go through for the Lord or one that we love.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor who ministered during the Second World War, gave his life by fighting for his Christian principles and opposing Hitler while others remained silent or on the sidelines. He went right into the arena for Christ. He wrote a classic book called The Cost of Discipleship in which he speaks of cheap grace and costly grace. We usually are not transfigured by “cheap grace” without going through something for the Lord who said a follower of his would be handed a cross on earth.
To love Christ is to be willing to go through something with him, to suffer something, if necessary, and even without fully understanding why. In this life, out of love for him and others, we will find him hidden in disguise. What God permits us to go through in our brief life, like Christ’s own Crucifixion (which he foresaw on Mt. Tabor), shapes and molds our transfiguration. Not that we can accomplish this ourselves! No, Christ himself works our trials to good for us. We have stepped out and used our faith; we have trusted the Lord; and we are willing to suffer, if necessary, out of love for him.
Even Saint Paul said very clearly, “I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Colossians 1:24). Christ allows us to have the human dignity of sharing in this work of redemption. The disciples will have their high points of sharing in the glory of Christ, but love is proved by what we have gone through for someone and with someone. The disciples cannot stay here: they must descend into the valley of suffering with Christ, and so must we. Our Transfiguration depends on it.