Paul, the author of today’s second reading, often compared
Christianity to the Judaism of his day. He was a highly trained and zealous Jew
who experienced the risen Christ in a personal revelation which led him to
become one of the leading teachers of the Christian path. So it’s not
surprising that his understanding of what Jesus was all about draws heavily on
Jewish teaching and history.
In today’s passage from 2 Corinthians, Paul is referring to
the story we heard in the first reading. Moses came down from the Mount Sinai
having met with God, and his face was glowing. It was so bright that other
people found it uncomfortable and so he wore a veil. According to Paul, the
Jewish people had continued to see God through a veil ever since. But in Jesus
we get to see God unveiled. Jesus, Paul says, is the mirror image of God, and
we can be too.
He writes, “And
all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though
reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one
degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”
It was thought that to see God face to face was to risk
certain death, just as a moth flies into a flame and is incinerated. So Paul
explains that Christ the God-human now mediates between us and God. We no
longer have to look at God through a veil because now we see her mirrored in
Jesus. We no longer run the risk of frying on contact. So we can have an
intimate relationship with the Great High God… we know what he’s like because
we see him in Jesus, and because Jesus has freed us from the sin matrix we can
have the co-creative, deeply transformative relationship we were created to
“All of us,” says
Paul, “with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in
a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to
another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”
God is unveiled.
At Jesus’ death the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of
the temple was torn, from top to bottom. The curtain, the veil is gone. But
what about us? Are we unveiled? Or do we peer at God through a veil of our own
making, unwilling to see her glory, unwilling to be transformed by the
encounter? God never forces himself on us – if we want to wear veils then he
will let us… but what are we missing?
My favorite story from the Desert Fathers and Mothers is
when the young Abba Lot goes to his elder Abba Joseph and says, “Brother, I
have sat in my cell and said my prayers and kept the fast and done everything I
was told to do. What else is there?” And Abba Joseph holds up his hands, and as
he does so, flames spring from the top of every finger, and he says, “Why not
become entirely fire?”
Why not become entirely fire?
What is stopping us from becoming so full of God that we
become entirely fire, that we are transformed and even transfigured? What is
causing us to veil our faces in fear and hide from the process of being
transformed from glory to glory in his image?
“All of us with
unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror,
are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another;
for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”
When we dare to
approach God unveiled in the confidence of our safety in Jesus, confident that
God’s unconditional love is fully ours…when we dare to approach God unveiled
then we too are transformed into the same image – the image of God – we too are
being transformed into the Christ-like beings we have the potential to be.
The light of
God’s glory which transforms us is not ours, anymore than Moses was shining
with his own light. He was shining with the light of God. It is the same light
of God which transforms and transfigures us. Not “this little light of mine”
but “this gargantuan, gi-normous light which is God is becoming reflected in us
just as it was reflected in Jesus the Christ.
When Jesus was
transfigured, his face burning with the light of God, the voice from the cloud
said, “This is my Son, my Chosen.” We too are God’s chosen, God’s daughters and Sons, God’s
beloved, chosen people. We are the ones who have been chosen to shine with
God’s light. This does not give us any reason for pride, because it is entirely
God’s free gift, offered to all humanity.
But it does
require a response from us.
A response which
is best summed up in Dag Hammarskjöld’s words, “For all
that has been — Thanks. For all that shall be — Yes.”
In order to be transformed into the
beautiful children of God, glowing with the Christ-light that we were intended
to be our lives must be filled with thanksgiving and praise – the basic energy
of the Universe – thanksgiving and praise to the God whose train fills the
temple and before whom the angels and archangels constantly give praise,
singing Holy, Holy, Holy. And even as we look backwards with thanksgiving and
live in the present with praise, so we look to the future with assent.
Saying Yes to God. Saying Yes to
our calling. Saying Yes to being transformed into the light of the world.