Sunday, March 20, 2011

Transfiguration and Transformation

Today’s Gospel reading at Catholic churches around the world is about the Transfiguration. Jesus is on a mountain with Peter, James, and John; Jesus suddenly appears dressed in white and with his face shining like the sun; Moses and Elijah appeared and conversed with Jesus; God told the mortal men to listen to Jesus.

This incredible event is not referred to as radical in the Gospels. However, if we take radical to be similar in meangin to “big” when it is used alongside “change” or “event,” it was a radical change in Jesus’s appearance and it was a radical event in the minds of those who saw it occur. It changed how they thought about Jesus.

In my own writing, I have called my work The Radical Transformation of Runner 1313. The transformation the main character in my writing underwent and the transformation that I underwent during the writing and prior to creating the final version of the story last year certainly was nothing close to what Jesus experienced. I would never even of comparing my mortal experience with Jesus’s.

What I can compare is the idea of transformation and transfiguration. Both include the root “trans”. It we think about something being transcontinental or trans-Atlantic we are reminded that the root has to do with moving across. The root is about change. Change of figure and change of form can mean very similar things. The key to both terms is that the person to whom the term transfiguration or transformation is applied is undergoing change. This is often perceived to imply substantive change. It may be a change in appearance. It may be a change in personality. But the change is substantial.

Reflecting on the importance of change in my spiritual life, the priest who says the mass that I attend regularly brings up the term radical transformation regularly at mass. He usually is referring to substantial changes in people’s views of the world, trust in God, and behaviors toward others. Certainly a faith that follows the values set forth in the Gospel would be a radical transformation away from what our society’s values are at present.

My physical and spiritual well-being come together when I think about what my running has done for me in terms of transformations—and some radical ones at that. I have had the opportunity to reflect in ways that I do not have when I am not taking time to myself. I have had the opportunity to develop a more mature sense of my beliefs and spirituality. I have had the opportunity to raise awareness and bring resources to bear to help others with a disease I care greatly about. I have had the opportunity to develop athletically in ways I had not experienced in the two decades prior. I take comfort in knowing that change was experienced by Jesus and by his followers and that the change I experience (while just a shadow of what went on among those in the early church) can be molded (hopefully) to follow in the positive, meaningful, and powerful outcomes that were experienced two millennia ago.

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