The first reading today describes the call of Abram where the Lord tell him, “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house for the land I will show you.” It seems to me the Lord is really asking much of Abram… asking a seventy-five-year-old man to uproot himself and make way to a place where the Lord does not tell him and quite vaguely saying “I will show you”. Tradition has it that Abram was a well to do man and to relocate would mean that he would have to sell everything and go to this new place and begin anew. Though reading this account makes us think that Abram just packed and left immediately at the ‘drop of a hat’, I am sure there would have been much hesitation to relocate. Put ourselves in the shoes of Abram… what would you have done?
Yet we know how the story goes… Abram moves and is now called Abraham (which means ‘father of many’). One cannot begin to imagine how difficult it was for Abraham to move to another place which wasn’t very near to the place he was living in (Ur). Even today with efficient logistics, we know that relocating is not easy because it is not just about moving things but it is about reorienting our whole selves to a new environment and begin anew. Yet he moves and is ready to embrace change – that is why Abraham is known as the Father of Faith.
In the gospel, we have the account of the transfiguration. The purpose of this was so that some of Jesus’ disciples could gain understanding of who Jesus was. In the way Matthew writes his gospel, up to this moment, the disciples of Jesus had only known Him in his human body but now they see Him in his heavenly glory, even though they did not fully understand the moment. The transfigured nature of Christ is accompanied with these words, “Listen to Him”. What this means is that the transfiguration was not just a revelation of Christ to His disciples but it is a call to transform our lives into being more Christ like.
The word ‘transfigure’ comes from two Latin words, trans and figura which means, ‘to go beyond form’. It simply means ‘to be transformed’. In ordinary terms, it simply means ‘change’. Transformation involves change and change not only implies external change but more constructively, inner change. The word change or transformation is not exclusive to the religious domain. Corporations and organisations often use these words – ‘change & transformation’.
We too use this word and the core message of Lent is indeed about change. However, there is a difference: at corporations and organisations, it is motivated by incentives and it is often financial incentives. On the other hand, the change that we are speaking about is not motivated by incentives but rather it is a response – a response to God’s initiative to love us by entering domain and demonstrating it through the passion, death and resurrection of His only Son, Jesus. This we are constantly reminded during Lent as we meditate on the Stations of the Cross. The sacrifices that we make, namely prayer, fasting and almsgiving, the stations of the cross that we make, and all other disciplines that accompany us on this journey of Lent is meant to effect this change that God calls us to.
Change is never easy; whether we are five, twenty-five or seventy-five, change is never easy when it is not incentivised. This is how we have been conditioned from a young age – children are offered incentives for good behaviour, students for good results, and employees for good returns. With Christ, it is not about incentives but responding generously. Sometimes change requires us to turn in a different direction. We are asked to leave the old us behind, and it requires us to open the doors of our hearts in order to allow the Lord to enter. And this act of opening to Him, this trust in Him is precisely “the victory that overcomes the world, our faith (1 Jn 5:4). For when God finds an open and trusting heart, He can work wonders there.