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2nd Sunday of Lent - Rise, and do not be afraid

Matthew 17:1-9
Second Sunday of Lent

Reflection by Pat Graff - Assistant Director, ACE Teaching Fellows

When I started teaching, I knew there would be many surprises. Any time you are around children, you have to expect the unexpected. I felt ready for that and was ready to do what ever it took.
Once the nervousness and hopeful feelings of those first few weeks wore off, however, I received a truly unanticipated surprise: a creeping negativity. I had the almost daily urge to complain.
Miguel couldn’t stay in his seat to save his life. Laura interrupted class twice during our math demonstration because she was always chatting with Vanessa. Bobby is mad at Daniel because Daniel doesn’t like his picture. Why is a picture even being shown off right now? Who just tipped over their desk?! Who can I complain to about this?!
It was a confusing and unwelcome realization. Lent weektwo 600Cognitive dissonance was afoot; this was not the kind of teacher I wanted to be.
I thought back to the seemingly saintly teachers who had put up with me in my youth. Was this how they interacted? It caught me completely off guard, and I could only think: “How is this possible?”
Apparently, teaching, guiding, and challenging twenty-six young lives was actually not all that easy, or even immediately joy-filled, especially once I found myself stuck in the day to day. Is this really what I signed up for?
In the event of the Transfiguration, the mountain top motif arises again in scripture. We have seen mountain stories before, as places of revelation and prayer as well as places of great suffering. We have Christ’s transfigured glory on Mount Tabor as well as his passion at Golgotha. How do we reconcile these two biblical images of ascent?
As in teaching, with its immense joys and struggles, a life of love ascends these two peaks. We find ourselves close to God in the perspective that comes with each. However, in the chaotic “city” of my classroom some days, that perspective was often lost. How then to recover that sense of the sacred amidst everyday craziness?
In this week's Gospel reading, I look to Jesus’ always patient and loving reaction to his disciples. Are not Peter, James, and John the three apostles that would soon fall asleep on the hillside of Gethsemane? Are these not the disciples that would soon cower in fear and confusion in the upper room, even after Christ’s resurrection? Jesus speaks with the utmost confidence in Peter, James, and John that day, despite knowing that they too would soon fall short. He gave them his love, his life, despite the fact that it was undeserved. In looking at my students, many of whom I wished would act very differently than they were then, I realized that if I wanted to change even just one life, I couldn’t begin by condemning it.
In our own lives, finding God in the love that we share with our children, students, and those around us, we realize that we too experience the exhaustion, doubt, and fear of Peter, James, and John in their own discipleship.
Christ took up the cross knowing that becoming a light for the world means being willing to enter into and walk through darkness. Here, we find hope in a transfigured Christ who girds us in light and shows the way to cast out darkness, showing us ascent is possible one step at a time.
This Lenten season, know that the Son of Man who makes himself known at the top of Mount Tabor speaks confidently to you in the bustling and confusing city of your own ministry:
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”

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