Saturday, March 15, 2014

March 16, 2014: 2nd Sunday of Lent A

All of us are familiar with the word, metamorphosis, which means a profound change in form from one stage to next or profound change in appearance or character. One familiar example is the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly through the stage of cocoon (it s a great struggle for the butterfly to emerge out of a cocoon). Another familiar example of metamorphosis is the before and after photo of a couch potato who decides to buy a $100 boot camp exercise video and actually does the exercises for 90 days. Unfortunately, after spending $100, I haven’t experienced such change in my appearance. It was not the fault of the DVD or the DVD player. I simply refused to do the exercises after the first 15 minutes. All of us can resist change, even when the outcome seems so compelling and attractive. We fear that it’s too hard to change, so we may give up.

Last week we began our Lenten journey in the desert with Jesus who was tempted by the evil one. This week we find ourselves with Jesus on a high mountain, the Mountain of Transfiguration. Mount Tabor, the site traditionally believed to be the Mount of Transfiguration is approximately 1,886 ft high or about 0.4 miles. That doesn’t sound too bad of a climb. But one pilgrim who recently climbed Mount Tabor, walking on the nicely asphalt paved road to the top, reported that it took him an hour and 15 minutes. Imagine then, what it would have taken Jesus and his disciples to climb the rocky, unpaved terrain to reach the mountain top. And remember, there were no hiking shoes, plastic water bottles, or moisture-wicking hiking clothes.

Mass at Basilica of Transfiguration, Mt. Tabor, Israel
The mountain is a powerful image symbolizing majesty and freedom. On the mountain we become aware of God, the Creator of the universe. The only obstacle holding us back from becoming all that we can become is fear. Perhaps this is why Jesus tells his friends on the mountain, “Do not be afraid.”
Jesus takes us up on the mountain to show us that we can not grow without going through an ongoing process of inner change. Throughout life we go through a series of changes and with each change we become new people.

This week, I celebrated mass with 12 men who have been challenged to change. The mass was said in a hallway about 18 feet wide and a folding table served as the altar. A portion of the hallway is taken up by a detention cage for men who instigate fights in the dorm rooms. Everyone attending mass was properly dressed, in their orange jumpsuits. During the homily, I read a reflection by Fr. Henri Nouwen. “Let us try to see the pain of our human and spiritual journey from above. The great art is to gradually trust that life’s interruptions are the places where God is molding you into the person you are called to be. Interruptions are not disruptions of your way to holiness, but rather are places where you are being formed into the unique person God calls you to be.” At that point, I asked the prison inmates, “Do you feel that this interruption in your lives is a place where God is molding you into the person you are called to be?” All the men nodded in agreement. I continued, “ You know you are living a grateful life when whatever happens is received as an invitation to deepen your heart, to strengthen your love, and to broaden your hope. You are living a grateful life when something is taken away from you that you thought was so important and you find yourself willing to say, ‘Maybe I’m being invited to a deeper way of living.’”

This week we look at the mountains that we are afraid to climb. We ask ourselves why we are afraid to go with the Lord to the top of the mountain. We find out why we resist the challenge to change. In that climb, God’s majesty and glory will shine in and through us as we are given the freedom to share the glory of God’s love, compassion, and peace with others. After all, we cannot experience the joy and ecstasy of the mountain unless we are willing to make the climb.

Where do I resist change? Do I believe that God gives me the power to change? Do I hear God’s invitation to change?