Luke 9: 29 While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. 
The text quoted here from Luke’s ninth chapter is the one that the common lectionary of the Church designates to be proclaimed and preached on this Second Sunday of Lent in 2016. It is the story of Jesus’ transfiguration one night on a mountain when he was praying in the presence of his three closest friends – Peter, and the brothers John and James.
Every interior motion of a person has a bodily correlate. Or, to put this another way, the body of a person is designed to participate in, and to reveal, what is going on within a person. And so we persons learn how to “read” what someone “tells” through the motions and gestures and changes of his or her body. Let us explore this reality through some examples.
Our face is downcast, and our shoulders may sag, when we experience disappointment. Or, notice how an empathetic person will take on the “body language” of the person with whom he or she is engaged: lighting up with a smile when the other laughs; becoming tearful and stricken of face when the other is suffering. Or, a teacher can tell whether his student is thinking, is honestly engaging a problem, by observing the concentration being expressed in the way the student focuses his or her face, has his or her body tense as it waits for the arrival of insight. And then, suddenly, the insight comes and the student’s face lights up, the body releases its tension, and the student sits back, smiling, into his or her seat and takes a deep breath of refreshment. Or, think how a leader is particularly alert to hide the bodily expression of his or her fear in front of his employees or colleagues, spawned in him or her by a set of circumstances suddenly challenging the company. Rather a leader will “put on” a confident face, will deliberately loosen the clenching of his body, for the sake of convincing his or her people that all is well. In doing this, a leader will recognize a particularly clear instance of what his body would rather show, what it would most naturally want to express, as he or she forces his or her body to “say” something quite different.
These few examples allow us to ponder the intimate connection existing between what we experience interiorly (affections, emotions, questions, confusions, clarities, convictions, etc.) and what our body “says” of those experiences through our highly expressive faces, in our eyes, how we breathe, our gestures, the set of our body, the tone of our voice, and so forth. In theological terms we speak of the body, of our body, as the first sacrament, by which word, “sacrament,” we mean “an outward sign of an invisible reality”, and by which “invisible reality” we mean something that once revealed we recognize as holy, as sacred (the Latin adjective sacer meaning something “holy, sacred, or something set apart” from what is ordinarily noticed.)
The Jesuit poem Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ (1844-1889) expresses how all living, and unliving, things have this same “inner” and “outer” aspect, such that we can speak of creation in all its aspects as sacramental. Here are the opening lines of his great poem:
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came. 
Stones “ring” and thus express externally their hardness and inner structure – each “sounds” differently when impacting a hard surface; strings on a violin “tell” the music in them; a bell “tongues” its unique quality of metal and the skill of the craftsman who cast it. Finally, every person expresses – “deals out” – his or her very Self in language, in gesture, in thoughts written out, in music composed and performed, and in expressive face – which self “being indoors,” and therefore hidden, must “speak” or “tell” in speech and gesture and physical demeanor, or, in the case of a poet, in words (the ones that he or she chooses – diction- and then “spells” them out on a page).
And so, the transfiguration of Jesus – is about an outward sign of an invisible reality. It is worth being careful here, lest we concentrate on the wrong aspect of this moment in the life of Christ.
The word “to transfigure” (verb) means (the Oxford English Dictionary Online), “to alter the figure or appearance of; to change in outward appearance; to transform.” This suggests that we are meant to pay attention not so much to the light, the effulgence of the face and clothes of Christ (by far the most noticed aspect of this scene – that glorious light!) but to the physical expression of his body – its change of shape by which is “spoken” some profound interior movement happening within Him. Did He suddenly look up with eyes wide open, or turn His head looking fiercely into the faces of his three best friends? What was the change the disciples noticed happening on his face – from what look to what? What did they see in His eyes? What was the change they heard in His voice? What were the movements of his arms and hands? Were His arms opening out with palms open, a gesture of surprise and welcome? Were they pulled in with hands over His heart as if profoundly moved by something and feeling it intensely near His racing heart? Did He suddenly fall to His knees – an obvious change of posture? Was His face mobile and bright, and his voice musical with laughter, mouth open and teeth flashing and head thrown back?
If we pay overmuch attention to the Light in this scene, then we will miss His body, that which is given us to “read” and so to interpret accurately the meaning of this moment in the life of Jesus. Light in itself doesn’t “say” anything; rather it makes able to be seen what “speaks”; it illuminates what we need to notice, which in this case, is the body of Jesus and its expressions and gestures as they took on different forms – transfigured – that night on a mountain with His three closest friends. Without such light on that dark night they could not have perceived Jesus’ body and its transfiguring changes.
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.
So, in our prayerful contemplation of this famous moment in the life of Christ, recorded in three of the Gospels – Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36 – let us each wonder about the body of Jesus that night on the mountain, and about how the articulate changes of shape and direction in its gestures, expressions, sounds, and motions “said” or “spelled out” or “told” of a profound interior experience He was experiencing.
What, do you suppose, was that experience?
 New American Bible (Revised Edition.; Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Lk 9:29.
 From the Poetry Foundation (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/gerard-manley-hopkins) concerning Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ – “Gerard Manley Hopkins is one of the three or four greatest poets of the Victorian era. He is regarded by different readers as the greatest Victorian poet of religion, of nature, or of melancholy. However, because his style was so radically different from that of his contemporaries, his best poems were not accepted for publication during his lifetime, and his achievement was not fully recognized until after World War I.”