We can say that Lent is an extraordinary time lived in an ordinary season. We fast, we pray, we do works of charity – all while we also go about the ordinary rhythm of our lives. We still go to work, we still go to school, we visit with one another, we pay bills… The ordinary rhythm of life continues on even while we make the extraordinary journey of Lent.
We have echoes of this “extraordinary in the ordinary” in our readings for this second Sunday of Lent. In the gospel (Lk. 9:28b-36) our Lord takes Peter, James and John up on the mountain to pray. The three disciples experience the transfiguration of our Lord as he is in prayer to the Father. They catch a glimpse of the truth of who Christ is and they are awestruck … but the world continues on. The other nine disciples were probably about the duties of an ordinary day, for the people in the closest village it was just another day like any other. The world did not stop even as this amazing event occurs. Peter, understandably, wants to remain in this extraordinary experience but the gospel goes on to say that he “did not know what he was saying.” Our God does not disdain the ordinary. For God the extraordinary and the ordinary are not opposed.
Just as Jesus took the three disciples up the mountain to pray, we are told that God “took Abram outside” to see and count the number of the stars (Gen. 15:5-12,17-18). Our God values our company. He does not like to walk alone. Even with the surreal and mystical image of animals being sacrificed and Abram in a trance, God binds himself to an ordinary group of people, Abram’s descendants, in order to walk with them through the running of time and history and thereby bring them (and through them all of humanity) into the fullness of his Kingdom. Christ himself values our ordinary company. The gospels are consistent in this message. Christ does not see himself as some tragic, solitary hero. Christ binds himself to his ordinary, little group of followers even as he is fully aware of their weaknesses and their limits.
“Yes,” says the author of Philippians, “our citizenship is in heaven” and to this we direct our lives but we now live our lives here in this world so “stand firm in the Lord” (Phil. 3:17-4:1). Our actions here in our ordinary world and lives should reflect the extraordinary glory of our citizenship in heaven which is the hope we journey toward.
For God the extraordinary and the ordinary are not opposed. The same ought to be true for us. We can be awakened, our eyes can be opened to see the extraordinary in the ordinary if we allow ourselves to be “taken up” by Christ. Just as Christ took the three disciples up the mountain to pray, just as God took Abram outside to gaze at the heavens, we need to allow Christ to take us and pull us away from our own selfishness and draw us into his own life. If we allow this to happen then we can participate in a greater reality, our eyes will be opened and we will begin to see as Christ sees. We also can be transfigured.
It has been said that the transfiguration “means breaking boundaries. It means contemplating how good the Lord is, how wide his horizons are, and how deep the demands of his Gospel are.” May each one of us be a little more transfigured during this extraordinary time lived in an ordinary season.