|Reading 1||Response||Reading 2||Gospel|
| Gn 15:5-12, 17-18
RCL: Gn 15:1-12, 17-18
|Ps 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14||Phil 3:17–4:1|| Lk 9:28b-36
RCL: Lk 9:28b-36 or Lk 13:31-35
During Lent the believing community follows Jesus as he is tested, transfigured, tells parables, forgives, and arrives in Jerusalem. This week’s readings ask us how and where we encounter God, and how such encounters change us.
In the first reading from Genesis, Abram argues with God about God’s promises. Although God judges Abram righteous because of Abram’s faith, God also sees Abram needs more than a promise. God offers Abram a covenant or a binding contract between two parties, expressed as a ritual common in the ancient world. Abram, in a “trance” or altered state, encounters God “in person” (in the form of a “smoking furnace” and “flaming torch”). The Lectionary editors chose this reading because the disciples also experience a divine encounter while in an altered state of reality.
In the second reading from Paul’s letter to the ekklesia in Philippi, Paul describes how the resurrected Christ “will transform our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.” Christ, as firstfruits (1 Cor 15:20), makes possible his disciples’ own resurrections and bodily transformations. The idea of transformation/transfiguration links the second reading to the gospel.
Luke’s gospel describes how Jesus is transfigured before Peter, John, and James. Luke uses dense references to Hebrew scripture to describe the disciples’ mystical and transformative experience.
- Prayer. Luke understands the transfiguration as a prayer experience. In Luke’s gospel, when Jesus prays, something important happens, such as the theophany after his baptism (Lk 3:21), his choosing disciples (Lk 6:12), and Peter’s profession of faith (Lk 9:18). Just as Jesus’ prayer initiates his transfiguration, so our prayers transform us: a change of heart/mind (metanoia), a divine encounter, or seeing another person in a new way.
- Sleeping/awaking. In the ancient world, people frequently experienced alternate reality in visions and trances. In the first reading, Abram meets God in “a trance.” Prophets like Isaiah (Is 6:1-13), Jeremiah (Jer 1:11-19), and Ezekiel (Ez 1:4-28) describe their experiences of God in visions or ecstatic states. In Hebrew scripture, sleep is often the medium for heavenly encounters or visions (Gn 15:12, Dn 8:18). Modern societies lose their appreciation for the mystical when they expect scientific proof from dreams and visions.
- Change in perception. Peter, James, and John could not fully understand what Jesus’ transfiguration meant until after they experienced his resurrection. Jesus’ transfiguration was not permanent; it foreshadowed his resurrected self. Once resurrected, Jesus is able to transform us, as Paul says, “to conform with” him. Baptism foreshadows what we might be at the parousia; as we allow Jesus to reconfigure us, we change how we understand ourselves, others, and God.
The Lenten Lectionary readings call us to walk with Jesus as he prepares for his transformative death. Today’s readings invite us to encounter God “in person.” We most often find God in private or public prayer. We also meet God in the presence of others, in the physical body of the believing community, in hearing the scriptural word, and in the ritual of sacraments. Like Abram and the disciples in today’s readings, we may also touch God in a “mountaintop experience:” an intense personal, spiritual, or emotional encounter. Each encounter can provide us with a new insight into God, others, and ourselves. How are we actively seeking God’s presence? Are we transfigured by prayer? Are we able to see the divine in the everyday?