Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard - 28 February 2010

Mount of Transfiguration

Mount of Transfiguration

The reading from Genesis (15.5-12, 17-18) is ancient and mysterious. It describes some ritual that took place at the dawn of human memory, perhaps three thousand years or more ago. Its original meaning is far from certain, but two things seem clear: it is about the gift of children, and the gift of land.  Both were essential in the ancient world if you were to create an enduring family that would last through many generations.

As our story begins, Abraham and Sarah are childless. They have set out to find a new land in response to the command of God. But who will inherit what they build in their new homeland? The answer comes when Abraham is asleep or in some kind of trance. In a vision, God promises him a vast number of descendants, who will inherit his land and his faith. God does not say how these things will come about. Abraham has to wait.

Abraham's situation is a mixture of faith and promise, of hope and anxiety. We can often say the same for  ourselves. God gives us a promise too. It is the promise that he will always be there for us, that we can never fall beyond his love. It is a promise that in Christ we are blessed with the life-giving grace of God which will strengthen us in times of weakness. We believe, and yet we go through times of worry.

The same was true on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9.28-36). It was a moment of reassurance, when God comforted those who needed strength. Yet they still had their struggles. On that mountain, the veil that separates this world from eternity was lifted for a moment, and the face of Jesus reflected the light of eternity. The sight of Jesus transfigured was a privilege to strengthen those who saw it.  It would have been strength for the coming ordeal. But they wanted to stay there rather than come down to earth. The disciples were reluctant to go back to the world and all its conflicts. But it was their calling to accompany Christ wherever he went. It is our calling too.
I think of the promise made to Abraham now fulfilled in another way. It is not a land that God promises us in Christ. God gives us a community, a people to belong to.  In fact, we belong to a people found everywhere on earth, the Catholic Church, together with fellow pilgrims of other Christian traditions. We belong to a people called into God’s life by the waters of baptism and nourished at the Mass.  In fact, you could say that at every Eucharist we stand on the mount of transfiguration to glimpse the face of Christ, before we return to the everyday world to live the mission he gives us.

Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London.   His new book:  Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, from religious booksellers and from the publisher.
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