First Reading: Gn 12:1-4a; Psalm: 33. R. v. 22; Second Reading: 2Tm 1:8b-10; Gospel: Mt 7:1-9
THE LESSON OF THE TRANSFIGURATION
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
Nigeria had just concluded her 2023 Presidential election. An election that lacked credibility, transparency, fairness, and a true representation of democracy. During the collation of the election results, there were clear evidences revealing the manipulation of vote counts both from the manual record sheets of electoral officers and from the record sheets uploaded on the portal of INEC, the body responsible for conducting elections in Nigeria. There were also reports from electoral officers that voting was not held in their different polling units yet results emerged from these polling units. Despite these irregularities and obvious evidences of manipulation, a winner was declared to the surprise of many Nigerians. This led to protests by aggrieved Nigerians and hosting of press conferences by opposing political parties to register their displeasure on the outcome of the election.
What happened in the just concluded presidential election in Nigeria is a clear illustration of how desperate and manipulative man can be in his pursuit of power. It also reveals man’s natural proclivity to react to injustice when meted out. But how we go about this matters a lot. When Jesus told his disciples that he would be captured and killed, Peter immediately pounced out and vowed that it would never happen. But Jesus rebuked the spirit in Peter. Peter would do the same at Jesus’ arrest, but this time around attacking and cutting off the ear of one of the Roman soldiers. And again, Jesus would rebuke him and ask him to sheathe his sword. It is not as though Jesus was in support of evil; but that there are better ways to fight evil.
In the gospel of today, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John to a high mountain where he was transfigured. During this extraordinary encounter, Moses and Elijah appeared and were discussing about the impending passion of Jesus. Peter again turned a deaf ear to the discussion regarding Jesus’ imminent death but was more concerned about building booths for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. So for Peter, what matters was to remain with the Lord in that awesome experience and not the thought of Jesus’ passion and death. But while Peter was busy thinking of building booths, they heard a voice from the clouds saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
This command of the Father from the cloud reiterates the message of Jesus to his disciples that he must suffer death before victory. And thankfully, Peter was there to hear it. Although Peter was fighting a just cause by standing in defence for life since it is wrong and unjust to take away the life of another or what rightfully belongs to another just for selfish reasons. But Peter needed to understand that sometimes the sweetest victory comes through pain. When Jesus was defeated and killed, his disciples despaired and the Jews rejoiced thinking it was the end of Jesus. But it was just a matter of time. Three days on, Jesus rose from the dead and the post resurrection effect completely defeated his adversaries.
Sometimes in life, the good things to come are preceded by disappointments, pain, anxiety, and even despair. And just when we thought that all hope was lost; things would begin to turn around in our favour. Peter, who was scared of pain and defeat, would later discover that God permitted it so as to show the power of his resurrection. Sometimes God allows us to experience affliction in order to show the greatness of his power.
Transfiguration is a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state. If there is a part of us that needs to be changed or transfigured in this period of Lent; perhaps it is our mentality and philosophies. And our transfiguration should be dependent on the command of God that we should listen to Jesus his beloved Son. And Jesus is telling us today that we can fight a just cause but we must sheathe our sword and do it the right way. And that there is no victory without the pain of the cross. If our understanding of life can be transfigured into this new form of Christian understanding, then we are on course to victory over the devil.
In this period of Lent, if we felt we can overcome satan and evil without any struggle or challenge, then we are deceiving ourselves. The reason we often face struggles and challenges in pursuing a good cause is because the devil wants to discourage us to back down. When we try to stop a habit of sin and fail, the devil says to us, “You see! You can’t do it.” When we attempt to improve on our skills and the result isn’t turning out as expected, he says, “There is no need trying. You are not good enough.” And when we see injustice or evil triumphing over good, the devil says, “There is nothing you can do; this is the reality of life.” But we must not give in to the devil’s trick till he is completely defeated.
The second Sunday of Lent calls us to brace up amidst the seemingly discouragements, sufferings and pain that becloud the good things to come. We must not give in to sin just because we have tried again and again to overcoming it but failed. We must not yield to injustice when it keeps trampling on our rights. But we must fight it in a just and right way. And we should always remember that not backing down in warring against evil and sin is the right disposition and courage needed to completely defeat the devil.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, grant us the grace not to give up in warring against satan and sin. Amen.