I looked up “transform” in Webster’s Dictionary. It means: To change in composition or structure; to change the outward form or appearance; to change in character or condition--to convert! Jesus’ first message in His ministry is (unfortunately) translated as “repent,” but the word He used was “Metanoia” which means “change” or more precisely: change your mind. The word change refers to a (new) beginning; but transformation more often occurs when something old falls apart. The chaos we feel when this is happening can often have the positive effect of inviting us to quiet inward listening at a deeper level. Knowing this doesn’t make any change chaos any easier…and most times we will do anything to avoid any change or transformation.
But our Lenten journey—and our life-long faith journey—is about our personal transformation and conversion, about changing our hearts of stone. All we do—in and out of church—should really be spiritually transformative, life-altering. This year our Lenten journey should renew us, renovate us, and change the perceptions and priorities of our life in holier and spirit-filled ways.
Like Abraham (Abram) from the First Reading in the Book of Genesis, we are called to leave our familiar place and go where the Lord leads us. In the Transfiguration story of St. Matthew’s Gospel today we glimpse what we are preparing ourselves for: our eternal life, the mountain of the Lord, communion with all the rest of the saints (besides those saints here on earth!), our place at the heavenly banquet. Our whole life should be a transformative journey leading us to God, holiness, goodness and love.
St. Paul reminds us today that we were saved to be holy, to live holy lives. He also says that since we are saved, we all are called to a holy life according to God’s design: toward an ever-deeper union with God and all things. The knowledge of having been saved is humbling, and it should be transformative! God delights in every person whose heart breaks open and blooms. Then, as we all come to glory, the world itself comes to its glory—and everything is transfigured. This is inclusive and recognizes that all human beings are called to be their best versions. We are all works in progress, individually and collectively. Creation itself is dynamic, always changing; and so we must “live” ourselves into a new ways of thinking and being—to transform ourselves and our communities. This requires transformation and change of our lifestyles and habits.
Good thing that God’s love for us is unconditional. (He made a new covenant.) We will be loved even if we don’t (can’t, won’t) change, or “do it right.” We always run in fear from change and the growing pains connected to it—even if somewhere underneath we know it is part of God’s unfolding plan for us! We are human, and though we are called to be holy and perfect we will always make mistakes. God’s love for us, however, does make it possible for us to change: for us to leave the familiar in confidence and go to the new; for us to strive to lead holy lives; for us to want to be changed and transformed in the safety of God’s love and blessed assurance. It’s all about transforming and creating habits of holiness and goodness. As Father Kevin said last Sunday—we must replace the old with something new; it’s not enough to just sweep away the old.
Overcoming old habits of sin (you know the long list) takes transformative work but change anyway! Change your minds! Be Not Afraid! Be holy and good for the world, for you, for all and for God. The best way to beat the bad is to practice the better. And maybe pay attention to other, counter-cultural things to help you change: like simplicity, humility, non-violence, contemplation, silence, solitude, stewardship, nature, the gift of all the other creatures of the world, and the “least of our brothers and sisters.” You may then transform and transfigure yourself, and the world around you.