My daughters love the Eric Carle classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. For more than two generations, children have read the story of a tiny and very hungry caterpillar who, despite some unhealthy eating habits, eventually turns into a beautiful butterfly. We have grown to love the idea of metamorphosis, but I’m afraid most of us are still not big on change: probably because we like the sound of Greek and Latin words more than the idea of real life changes, especially when the life being changed is ours.
Unfortunately for all of us, I think the Transfiguration, which in Greek is… you guess it, metamorphosis, is all about real life change. I think that’s why it is the lesson, every year, for the last Sunday of Epiphany. It serves as the transition point in the Gospel, in the Church, and in our own lives, from the revelation of Jesus to the realization that the cross of Christ compels us to change. Real. Life. Change.
So what keeps from changing? The more I think about it, the more I’m beginning to think that though we are wired to avoid change for change’s sake, we tend to do more than our fair share of work to avoid it. Newton’s First Law of Motion, as we all learned in High School Physics, states that an object at rest tends to stay at rest until acted on by an outside force and an object in motion tends to stay in motion in a constant direction and velocity, until acted on by an outside force. It is only natural, then, that we would tend to not want to change. The problem comes when an outside force, i.e. God, acts on us and we resist.
Jesus, after telling his disciples about his impending arrest, torture, death, AND resurrection, realizes that they can’t or won’t hear his change in their plans. They want Jesus to march into Jerusalem and restore the throne of David by power and might. After six days of wrangling over it, he decides to show them, so he takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain were he is changed, transfigured, before their very eyes. Things aren’t the way they seem and aren’t going to end up the way you think they should, this even says, but if you listen to the Beloved Son, you’ll see that it’ll all work out. The Transfiguration tells us that change is coming whether we like it or not. God is at work, acting upon us for the Kingdom of God. The question is, will we listen and be transfigured or not?