Today Catholic Christians celebrate the Second Sunday of Lent.
On this day, we hear the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus in the Gospel of St. Mark.
In this story, we learn that Jesus led Peter, James, and John up a high mountain so they could be by themselves. When they arrived, Jesus became transfigured before them, his clothing becoming dazzling white. Suddenly, Elijah and Moses appeared on the scene and began having a conversation with Jesus. It is good to note that Elijah, who represents the Old Testament’s prophets, and Moses, who represents the Hebrew laws, had been dead for a long time.
When the disciples saw Jesus, Elijah and Moses together, they were amazed. Peter wanted to make three tents, one for each of the three figures. “Making tents” was a sign of respect given in those days. Suddenly, a cloud came over them, and from the cloud came a voice saying, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him” (Mark 9: 7).
When the disciples looked up, Elijah and Moses had disappeared, leaving them alone with Jesus.
The moral of the story is that with Jesus, the Old Testament laws and prophets have disappeared. Now, we need only Jesus, for he is the fulfillment of both the Old Testament law and prophets.
The word “transfiguration” means to be transformed. Usually it refers to become more spiritual, moving further and further along the path of holiness. As followers of Christ, we are called to continually be transformed, become ever brighter lights of Christ in the world.
Today we look at one man whose holiness became so visible to those around him, that even Moslems saw him as a special prophet. His name was Simon Srugi.
Simon Strugi was born on June 27, 1877 in Nazareth, youngest of ten children. When he was three-years old, his parents died, and he went to live with his grandmother. However, when he was eleven, he went to live in an orphanage in Bethlehem, which was run by the Salesian Fathers.
Simon loved the orphanage so much that when he was sixteen years old, he asked to be become a Salesian. The Order sent him to the Oratory Agricultural School at Beit Gemal. When he was finished with his studies, he was a Salesian Brother.
Brother Simon lived and worked in Beit Gemal for the rest of his life – fifty years. In Beit Gemal, Simon did many jobs at the Oratory such as being a porter, teacher, and storekeeper of a food and knickknack shop. What he was most famous for, however, was being the community nurse.
The mill at the Oratory was the only one in the area, so farmers and their families had to come there to do their business. As the head of the infirmary, the people fell in love with him and put all their trust in him. Even when there was a physician present, the people insisted on seeing Brother Simon. In fact, even though most of the people who came to the Oratory were Moslems, they liked to say, “After Allah there was Srugi.” They also said that Brother Simon was like a “cupful of honey.”
Not only did Brother Simon treat his patients for various physical and psychosocial issues, he also blessed the children and served as peacemaker for people who would frequently be caught up in various life dramas.
In 1908, Fr. Michael Rua, often called the “Second Father of the Salesian Order,” after St. John Bosco, visited Beit Gemal. After getting to observe Brother Simon, he told the community to “Follow him up well, record his words and deeds, because we are dealing here with a saint.”
Brother Simon died from malaria on November 27, 1943 at the age of 66.
Pope St. John Paul II declared Simon to be a Venerable on April 2, 1993.
From the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus and the story of Venerable Simon Srugi, we can glean many things. Here are just three.
First, all of us are called, as followers of Christ, to be transfigured in the sense of being transformed. This means that fine wine, we should become more special as we age. We are to grow spiritually, remembering that as long as we live on Earth, we are a “work in progress.”
Second, like Peter, James and John, we need to always keep in mind that it is Jesus alone whom we follow. Though God calls many people to be spiritual leaders, we need to remember that they are human. Humans make mistakes. Therefore, we need to always ensure that any teaching we receive from earthly leaders is in harmony with the triple love command of Jesus, that is, to love God, neighbor, and self. If teachings are not in harmony with Christ’s love ethic, we must reject them.
Third, like Simon, we must put our faith into action. As St. James noted, “For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2: 26). When we put our faith into action, we become lights to the world and good role models for others to follow.
As we continue our life journeys this week, it would be a good idea to ask ourselves how we are growing spiritually. How are we becoming transformed?
And that is the good news I have for you on this Second Sunday of Lent, 2018.
Story source: Fr. Robert J. Kus. “Ven. Simon Srugi, S.D.B.,” Saintly Men of Nursing:
100 Amazing Stories, Wilmington, N.C.: Red Lantern Press, 2017, pp. 229-230.