Christ’s Transfiguration gives the light of hope
Darkness to light. This was how Pope Benedict XVI described Jesus’ Transfiguration in his address before the Angelus in 2006. The Pope stressed that the Feast of the Transfiguration was an important opportunity for Christians to look to Christ as the “light of the world”, and to experience the conversion which the Word of God frequently describes as an emergence from darkness to light.
The feast, celebrated on August 6, commemorates one of the pinnacles of Jesus’ earthly life, when He revealed His divinity to three of His closest disciples by means of a miraculous and supernatural light. This divine “light” can sometimes be lost on us when we face challenges that seem insurmountable or never-ending.
Such was the experience of Rishik Elias Menon and his wife. In the past year, they welcomed a beautiful baby girl into their lives. However, with the child came challenges that exhausted him physically, mentally and emotionally. Days and nights blurred into each other, as the couple forsook sleep and adjusted to their new lives which revolved around attending to the needs of their baby.
During this time, Rishik was in the midst of completing a postgraduate degree and was scrambling to keep up with readings and assignments with whatever pockets of spare time he had. Before he could find any semblance of a routine, Covid-19 struck.
As a Catholic, when churches in the Archdiocese were closed, it just felt different, despite there being some pastoral programmes online. Then, when his university classes went online, he and his family were isolated at home. He no longer had a quiet library in which to work on his research, and his family no longer had the benefit of visiting friends and family who could lend a hand in caring for their child. Rishik was especially torn between these two roles of student and father – it was a struggle.
“Whenever I studied, I would feel lots of guilt for not helping my wife with the household chores or with looking after our daughter. At the same time, it was easy to get caught up with helping my wife once I started, and whole weeks could fly by without my doing any schoolwork,” said Rishik. This caused him much anxiety and stress, especially when deadlines drew close.
It was around this time that Pope Francis gave his stirring Urbi et Orbi blessing and message to the world on the Covid-19 crisis. His reflection and homily really spoke to Rishik, who was riddled with doubt, uncertainty, and feelings of failure. “I was reminded that I alone could not solve every issue; I needed to return to Christ and radically rely on Him.”
Almost counter-intuitively, when time was already so scarce, he prioritised spending even more time with God each day. “Sometimes, as a couple, my wife and I would contemplate on the rosary, or pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Individually, I would try to reflect on the day’s Gospel, and speak to Jesus through journaling.” Rishik also became more intentional about attending his parish young adult community’s weekly Zoom sessions, as well as online formation sessions by groups such as the Lay Dominicans or Opus Dei.
And sure enough, as he slowly cultivated these habits, “I found God blessing me with increased strength and freedom to pursue my vocation as a father, husband, and student.” The strength he received from God was not a literal boost of physical energy. Rather, it was a supernatural hope that His grace was truly enough for Rishik, that in his weakness, God’s power would be made perfect; a hope shone that no matter how difficult or impossible the challenges for the week appeared, He would bring Rishik and his family through it.
“I have grown in hope that as a family and a community we will all make it through this pandemic. Sure, things appear and sometimes continue to appear bleak and uncertain, but our final resting place is not this earth, but the Kingdom of Heaven,” said Rishik.
The Transfiguration anticipates the glory of heaven where we shall see God face to face. Through grace, we have already come to share in the divine promise of eternal life; in this, our hope is not in vain. Celebrating the Feast of the Transfiguration reminds us that Christ has gone ahead and prepared a place for each of us. We have a certain hope, that all our trials and tribulations, like the ones Rishik is going through, will one day pass, and that it will not be long before we are reunited in our true homeland with our heavenly Father who delights in our being.
The purpose of the Transfiguration was to encourage and strengthen the Apostles who were saddened by Christ’s revelation of His Passion and Death. Like them, let us draw strength and wisdom to understand that, one day, we too shall be glorified with God only if we first suffer with Him. He will bring us from darkness to light.