Rev. Elder Hector Gutierrez
The season of Lent always brings me fond memories. On one hand, the ritualistic experience of the religious community in which I grew up practiced, to some extent, exaggerated penitence such that it even required us to stop listening to music or watching television during the 40 days and even to stop bathing during the Holy days. Yet on the other hand, I also experienced the most liberating seasons of Lent with my parents. While I still lived in their house, they never imposed the demands of the church. Instead, they taught us that Lent was a season of re-commitment to all humanity. They taught us to share what little we had with those who were less fortunate than us. This was at times something that was complicated yet very enlightening, because we were always members of the lower middle economic class. I am convinced that it is through them that I learned that I had to return to the Christ in our brothers and sisters. It was through my parents that I learned that losing myself and my life in the struggle for justice and solidarity, for the truth and the life, for the respect for the rights of all, is what gives meaning to being human and Christian.
It has always been interesting for me that in Luke 9:18, Jesus asks what seems to be at first a very human question to his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Yet, at its core, it is a profound spiritual question. I believe we are still being asked to wrestle with this same question as we address this Sunday’s text. I believe Peter’s answer grasps the larger context of the question as he answers Jesus of Nazareth, “The Christ of God.” As the Messiah, Jesus shares with his disciples that he must suffer the cross, die and be resurrected, through which the glory of God is to be revealed.
I see the journey of what is to happen in Jerusalem, Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, as an exodus story for us through Jesus, a new Moses. The witness of Jesus’ prayer, suffering, commitment, death on the cross, and resurrection is a new exodus journey for the early disciples and for our present community. In following Jesus on this exodus, we are not making a meaningless pledge but a vow to live a life in constant solidarity with the consistency of the radically inclusive Gospel.
Luke’s emphasis on the prayer life of Jesus, between the activity of Galilee and the ascent to Jerusalem, highlights for us the importance of prayer in the Christian life. Jesus models for us, not a formulated prayer with empty words, but words offering up our daily life experiences, of commitment, of constant struggle, of achievements, of frustrations, and of future plans, in order to bear witness to an authentic relationship with God.
For me, the Transfiguration is a prophetic vision of what is to come — in essence, a “reverse eclipse” — a light in the middle of the night. As we are transformed, dying to ourselves, our lives become the light of Christ in the middle of the night for those who are searching. It illuminates a whole new meaning to life and death! It makes comprehensible the wonderful reflection of Hélder Câmara who writes: “One who has not a reason to live, has no reason to die.”
Transfiguration, transformation, is to say, “this is what awaits us.” It illuminates for us that offering our life for the sake of the holy work, of the holy exodus of the gospel, is worthwhile. The process of transforming and changing makes sense to us because we have a firm rock, a foundation, in one that does not change and ensures our fruitful life, the “Crucified and Risen One” (J. Sobrino).
It is not that God desires that everyone should die literally, as God is the God of life, not of death. We are called to be transformed, as there is nothing more life-giving than losing yourself to unconditional love, because God is that love. God desires us to offer daily our life of unconditional love as a sacrifice in the work against the lies of injustice, violence, and selfishness that attempt to trap those who live on the fringes of love. We are to offer our life of unconditional love as a sacrifice to those whose exodus for life may involve traveling through death and resurrection. Ultimately what matters is living a life of unconditional love such that God is reflected through it. God’s radically inclusive love is so strong it is willing to die so that others may live — a death that brings life, to so many dead lives…