Biblical anthropologist John Pilch says that
describing the disciples’ experience of Jesus’ transfiguration as a “vision”
is an important piece of information.
Modem psychological anthropology tells us
that the majority of the world’s cultures
do not consider alternative states of consciousness
to be odd or irrational.
They see them as normal human experiences.
Cultures like ours are the ones that need to take another look.
In the USA we’re more likely to talk about hallucinations or illusions
instead of visions or transfigurations.
But we do know about change.
We know that people can change, dramatically.
Old dogs can learn new tricks.
People jailed for serious crimes turn their lives around
and become productive citizens,
even role models for youngsters.
The footloose and fancy-free
have been known to shape their idealism
into responsibility and commitment.
These days we see scores of folks
turning out for demonstrations and marches
because they have a better idea—a vision—
of what our country should be.
They have a vision.
Then there’s the difference that faith makes—
the change in people who live what they believe.
It’s plainly visible.
John’s gospel tells us
that everyone will know that we are Jesus’ disciples
if we love one another.
If we believe that,
and if we begin to act out of that love,
then we will change our lives.
And people will notice.
We will be transfigured.
The early followers of Jesus saw transfigurations all around them.
Acts 10:38 says that Jesus went about doing good,
and people saw it
and followed him.
Chapter 13 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians
tells us what that love looks like.
You know the passage: Love is patient, love is kind….
If we are not changing,
not acting out of love,
not becoming transformed,
then we cannot call ourselves disciples.
We cannot call ourselves Christians
unless people can see a difference in us.
The turning point—
that point where the change becomes noticeable—
Today’s first reading calls Abram to change.
He goes from being Abram of one tribe
to Abraham for all the tribes,
for all the nations.
Today’s second reading encourages Timothy to change.
Paul tells him to lead a holy life,
to fan to flame the gifts he has,
not with a spirit of fear
but with a spirit of love.
And today’s gospel shows the transfigured Jesus
inspiring Peter, James, and John to follow him.
We’ll hear about another transfiguration next Sunday
in the story of Jesus and the woman at the well.
The Sunday after that
we’ll hear the story of the transfiguration of the man born blind.
And the Sunday after that
we’ll hear the story of Lazarus untied and set free,
brought to life,
Something clicked for Peter, James, and John on that mountaintop with Jesus.
They finally understood that he was the real thing;
a leader, like a new Moses;
a prophet, like a new Elijah.
Those three disciples finally learned
that Jesus’ very being
was an expression of the God’s presence,
They had to listen to him.
They were compelled to follow him.
What changed them?
What made the difference for the woman at the well,
for the blind man, for Lazarus?
It was Jesus’ compassionate love,
his honesty, his truth,
and his hunger to share all his life—
the length of it and the memory of it,
the quantity and the quality of it—
to share life and love with the likes of them.
The Spirit of God—the divine Spirit—filled Jesus’ soul,
and it changed him
to the point that it became visible.
Jesus taught with his very life,
with what he did with it
and all the ways he lived it
by giving it to God.
The power of his goodness
moves us to be like him,
to imitate him.
We become, like Peter, James, and John, disciples.
We learn how to be good.
Then our goodness becomes contagious.
Others are inspired by us—
by our compassionate love;
the power of our truth;
our freedom to be wholly ourselves,
the selves we are made to be.
We are changed.
We become more like Jesus.
Thanks be to God!
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006