A Dominican Sister Theologian reflects on the FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION
Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 2 Peter 1:16-19 Matthew 17:1-9
I confess that at certain times in my life I’ve become a news junkie, checking in frequently during the day to see if there are any twists, turns, or breaking headlines. From the night of the election on, it seems that my understanding of events and my expectations about their outcomes at the time I’ve gone to sleep have been challenged by the morning news and tweets. I struggle to evaluate and make sense of any new developments, to discern any shifts in trajectories, to re-formulate a coherent—if still incomplete—narrative. And I wonder what today will bring in terms of leaks, investigations and actions.
In reflecting on today’s Scripture, which really is good news, I began to wonder how it might be reported today; in fact, how might all the events in the Gospel be reported in our time, if they were occurring now? For the Gospels are reflections on previous events that are woven together in relatively coherent narratives. But what if those events were simply tweeted out, or posted on Facebook, or found in news headlines?
Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism might go like this:
John baptizes newcomer; strange events occur #Jesus #beloved Son
“Beloved son” in secret desert meetings with devil #Jesus #beloved Son # Satan
Or a chapter before today’s passage, when Jesus asks his disciples who people think he is:
Jesus’ identity revealed #identity Messiah
Peter blessed for his answer # Peter # keys to the Kingdom
Peter rejects suffering messiah, rebuked by Jesus #Peter #Satan
Followers expected to carry cross, lose lives #discipleship
Jesus glorified; disciples see Moses and Elijah # identity Beloved Son
Jesus predicts death and resurrection #identity Son of Man; #suffering, death and resurrection
Every time Jesus’ special relationship with God is acknowledged, temptation, suffering and/or death form the next headline. And in the midst of this back and forth, we are told that we, too, can expect suffering, hardship, even death.
These dynamics of glory and pain, understanding and misunderstanding, testing the spirits and being tested by them, are part of our lives, too. We can all look back on moments in our lives in which the presence of God was clear and transformative, when we knew without doubt that we were God’s beloved son or daughter. We’ve experienced success, community, affirmation, recognition. Yet the sign of the cross is never far away. We have each also experienced loss: death of family and friends, perhaps loss of a job or our health, perhaps moving from a familiar place to come to Adrian, perhaps memory or other capacities. We’ve experienced failure, misunderstanding, disappointment, rejection.
The challenge then is to keep weaving that coherent narrative. Whatever befalls us, whatever suffering we choose to endure for the sake of justice, whatever the losses and dislocations and letting go—we possess the prophetic message that we are God’s beloved daughters and sons, that through what we do and endure, we are being transfigured. Today we are being invited to look more deeply into our lives, into world events, into the creation we are part of, to see the glory always present, always desiring to shine forth.
As St. Paul says in Corinthians: “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. All of us, gazing on the Lord’s glory with unveiled faces, are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image by the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:17-18). That is the prophetic message, the vision and inspiration that provides a deep narrative. It could be considered “alternative facts” but not “fake news.” Actually it is, in the fullest sense, good news.
Patricia Walter, OP