In this Sunday’s Gospel the story is recounted of Jesus undergoing a glorious transfiguring change in his physical appearance. During this Lenten time, Jesus demands nothing less of us, in fact he is demanding even more, for Jesus desires that we undergo a spiritual transfiguration. That is a pretty big demand for people who are still wiping the ashes from their foreheads.
Last week, “Living Rite” applied a kaleidoscope of color to our celebration of the liturgy. This Sunday, Jesus’ person is glowing in light. Those who think that our liturgy is lackluster and boring simply must not be paying attention! The liturgy is a powerful source for personal transfiguration, with many interconnected vignettes used by God to change us into people who are more Christlike.
The collect (opening prayer) for this weekend clearly expresses God’s intent for us: “… grant that we, beholding his (Jesus’) majesty, may be strengthened to follow him and be changed into his likeness …”
Liturgy transforms us by bringing us together. We may come to liturgy alone, but within the celebration we become the one body of Christ. Liturgy is not an individualistic “me and Jesus” event. That is why much of our liturgical ritual and prayer is “standardized” by the Roman Missal. The liturgy is universal, for all people in all times. If one is at Sunday Mass at the cathedral in Green Bay or the tiniest Catholic church in the foothills of Appalachia, we pray as one and the attitude and disposition of the assembly should be such that releases all racial, cultural, social and indeed all human differences to God’s saving grace.
Liturgy transforms us through music. Music with integrity can inspire wonder and create space where our soul can encounter goodness, truth and beauty. The music of the liturgy can quiet us, humble us, emotionally move us and immerse us in the divine love of God.
Liturgy transforms us through the Scriptures. In the Liturgy of the Word, the Holy Spirit “recalls” to the assembly all that Christ has done for us. The word desires to transform us so that which we hear, we can also proclaim and live out.
Liturgy transforms us through the Eucharist. As we consume Christ and allow our very lives to be consumed in him, grace is fostered and we are challenged to become the mystery we have received. In Communion, we encounter God and we encounter one another as the body of Christ joined to the communion of saints.
Liturgy transforms us but only with our consent. God with great mercy and generosity pours grace upon us, but unless we are open in mind, body and soul to receive that grace, transfiguration cannot occur. Throughout the liturgy, God asks us again and again, “Are you sure? Do you really want to be transformed?” and we respond “Yes I do” with our “Amen.”
Lent time is on the move. We must not let the days slip past us. May we come to liturgy this weekend desiring the radical transfiguration we are being invited to share with Jesus. Like the apostles, may we know in our heart, “Lord it is good for us to be here.”
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.