Gospel Reflection: Second Sunday of Lent 2018

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.

This week’s Gospel, recounting Christ’s transfiguration, has commonality with my experience as a missioner in Bolivia. Five words came to mind sequentially as I reflected on this passage and my work with Solidarity Bridge: privilege, remoteness, intensity, uncertainty, and humility.

Privilege: Jesus was purposeful in selecting Peter, James, and John to accompany him up the mountain. What a privilege for them to have been chosen to experience what was revealed! This is reminiscent of the honor bestowed upon me to join Solidarity Bridge mission trips for three consecutive years. I remain grateful to my former boss who not only repeatedly approved my extended time away but encouraged and validated this work. And, my family’s tolerance and generosity mitigated any difficulties my absences might have engendered. It has been a gift as well, during and since mission trips, to experience true fellowship with so many Solidarity Bridge associates in the U.S. and South America. And the Bolivian patients who entrusted us with their lives and wellbeing—what a privilege to care for them!

Remoteness: In the Gospel, Jesus and the three disciples travel beyond their familiar surroundings. Peter, James, and John share a breathtaking vision, and its occurrence in the secluded mountainous setting must have intensified their experience and its indelibility. For someone like me who had barely traveled abroad before venturing to Bolivia, even urban Cochabamba felt remote. Drawing on that first experience, I adapted a year later to austere new surroundings of the remote and idyllic town of Coroico. That experience in turn facilitated my adjustment to extremely outlying Aiquile the following year, and the demanding work in which we and our Bolivian partners engaged. The immense beauty of all three locations reinforces my vivid memories of what our teams, with God’s help, accomplished.


Intensity and Uncertainty: The disciples’ experience of the transfiguration must have been keenly intense. Though lesser in scale, Solidarity Bridge missioners have also felt marked spiritual intensity during mission. Whether involving mutual fellowship, delivery of medical care, or solidarity with those of another culture, so many of our experiences have been profound yet often difficult to describe. And just as John, James, and Peter react with uncertainty to what they experience, we as missioners have felt uncertain and have been challenged at times to determine how best to deploy our limited time and resources—despite, or perhaps complicated by, such spiritual intensity.

Humility: Upon descending from the mountain following the transfiguration, Jesus admonishes his disciples to temporarily maintain secrecy. He knows he can rely on their discretion. Though confused by his words, the three keep early allusions to the event confined to themselves. They later frame the occurrence with humility and promote the common good while deemphasizing their own role among the chosen few. A parallel can be drawn to a missioner’s post-mission behavior. It is reasonable to recount operations performed by numbers and varieties, and even to highlight particularly compelling cases. Sharing such meaningful experiences motivates others to contribute financially and/or operationally to Solidarity Bridge’s mission. However, any self-aggrandizement would be inappropriate because the organization’s activities always reflect communal rather than individual effort. Fortunately, Solidarity Bridge physicians with whom I have been privileged to work have always struck me as humble. What a privilege it has been to know them and everyone else associated with Solidarity Bridge here and in Bolivia!

Feb 25 Reflection

Transfiguring God,

you gift us with opportunities to be transformed. Open our eyes and our hearts to the gifts and the needs of all who are around us. May we be changed as we grow and learn to live in deeper solidarity.

Tim Van Natta was a UCLA thoracic and trauma surgeon and medical administrator who worked for Los Angeles County until retiring in July of 2016. He participated on three mission trips to Bolivia (Cochabamba, 2010; Coroico 2011; and Tiquipaya/Aiquile 2012) and has maintained his affiliation with Solidarity Bridge. Soon to complete graduate studies in finance, he is preparing for a second career in public finance and human services.

Your Lenten almsgiving will restore lives and
relieve suffering in Bolivia. 

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