Agents of Transfiguration – Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent

Second Sunday of Lent 25th February 2024

What would you do if your son or daughter’s life was being made miserable by a bully at school?

Author Catherine O’Connell-Cahill writes how one wise mom handled the situation.

Josh was being bullied by another boy at school. Josh was a regular target of the boy’s abuse. Josh’s mom also knew the bully and, like many troubled kids, knew the agony he was living at home.

Josh would come home from school angry at yet another humiliation at the hands of the bully. Like most parents, Josh’s Mom and Dad wanted to go and confront the kid and his parents. But they didn’t. Instead of advising Josh to punch the kid in the nose or signing him up for a martial arts course or threatening the bully’s parents with legal action, Mom asked Josh this: “Josh, is there one thing you like about this kid?”

Josh thought for a while and finally said, “He’s really good at football.”

Knowing Josh and his friends played football at break time, she asked whether the bully was ever chosen.

“No way. No one ever wants to pick him because he’s the class bully and they don’t like him.”

“And do you ever get to be the captain and pick kids for your team?” Mom asked.

“I get the chance every so often,” said Josh.

“So next time you’re the captain, why don’t you pick this kid and see what happens?”

Josh agreed. At the next opportunity, Josh managed to put aside his resentments and fear and picked the bully for his team.

This started a whole chain of events: Other kids also began picking the bully, the boy started to make friends instead of victims, and soon the bullying itself faded away.

All because of a wise, compassionate mom asked her son a question we seldom ask of those who harm us: Is there one thing you like about this person?

Josh and his wise mom are what the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu called “agents of transfiguration”: Josh puts aside his own anger and hurt and Mom pauses before reacting as a protective parent, to bring his tormenter into his circle of friends, transforming the boy’s identity and life.

Love that calls us beyond ourselves is transforming — in such love, we can “transfigure” despair into hope, sadness into joy, anguish into healing, estrangement into community. Archbishop Tutu said that the work of “transfiguration . . . [is to] work with God so that injustice is transfigured into justice, so that there will be more compassion and caring, so that there will be more laughter and joy, so that there will be more togetherness in God’s world.”