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Three Verbs for Lenten Goals

Fr Rich AndreRich Andre, CSP
March 3, 2023

We believe that the Transfiguration likely took place on Mt. Tabor, only 8 miles from Jesus’ childhood home of Nazareth. From there, one has a sweeping view of the beautiful Jezreel Valley, one of the most important travel routes in the ancient world, connecting Africa, Asia, and Europe. Whoever controlled the Jezreel Valley – and its tax revenues – controlled intercontinental trade.

From Mt. Tabor, Jesus, Peter, James, and John overlooked the scene of many important military battles over the millennia – those waged by Egyptians against Canaanites and by Philistines against Israelites. Did Jesus know that it was here that Saladin would defeats the Crusaders, that Napoleon would conquer the Ottomans, and that the Book of Revelation would predict the final triumph of good over evil?

The Jezreel Valley is a place not only of war and death, but also of beauty and life. Two million years ago, it was an underwater channel that connected the Mediterranean Sea to other major bodies of water. As geological forces raised this land upwards out of the water, it became the best farming land in the region, the very “heart” of the Holy Land.

On Mt. Tabor, things probably seemed easy to Peter, James, and John. Jesus was God’s Beloved. Victory was guaranteed. Who would want to go back down into the valley? Jesus had already told them that they were headed to Jerusalem for him to suffer and die. Why pass through this valley where there was death, hard work to do, and many previous defeats?

This weekend is a great time to consider three different verbs we can use regarding our Lenten goals: change, transform, and transfigure. To change means to become different, perhaps only temporarily. To transform means to become thoroughly or dramatically different. It’s still a neutral term: transformation may be thorough, but it’s not necessarily better. But to be transfigured means to be elevated, to become thoroughly or dramatically more beautiful.

This Lent, are we praying for our lives to be changed, transformed, or transfigured? Likewise, are we praying for our world to be changed, transformed, or transfigured? Even when we use the verb in a positive sense, changing the world is relatively easy. We do our part to build towards an easy-to-see, straightforward goal, and we trust that others will do their part, too. But to transfigure the world requires the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must build consensus towards a harder-to-see goal with no clear pathway to achieve it. Such a goal requires us to believe that God will sustain us at every moment of the endeavor, because we know that we cannot achieve it otherwise.

From one generation to the next, it’s easy to see the historical changes from Mt. Tabor: the flags flying in the region keep changing. But it requires a longer view to appreciate the transfiguration of the area. As God has elevated the land of the Jezreel Valley over the eons, it has literally become more beautiful.

Our mountaintop experience on the Second Sunday of Lent is temporary. We need to return to the valleys of challenge, of risk, of engaging with people who hold differing viewpoints. We must continually ask the Holy Spirit to inspire us. May we find ways to work together to achieve our dreams for a better world, even when the paths for reaching that place are not yet clear.