The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Transfiguration and The Namesake


Transfiguration: A Meditation on Transforming Ourselves and Our World by John Dear uses the Gospel story of Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8) to explore the process of transformation that is available to­­ all of us. For Jesus, this empowering experience came at a critical moment in his ministry when he was challenged to take up his mission to seek justice, make peace and lay down his life for humanity. His self-understanding was confirmed by Moses and Elijah who affirmed his vocation as the nonviolent Messiah­.

Dear divides his book into five sections: walking in the footsteps of Jesus; going up the mountain with Jesus; recognizing the transfigured Jesus in our midst; going down the mountain to the cross; and fulfilling our mission of transfiguration nonviolence in a culture of violence and war. Each section begins with a few key questions and ends with probes for personal reflection and a prayer. Dear fills in the details with commentary on Jesus at prayer, the motif of light in the Gospels, the fearfulness of his followers, and the marks of true discipleship.

Dear, a Jesuit and an internationally recognized voice for peace who served as the director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, salutes the commitment and ardor of Christians who have given their all in service to Jesus—Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Oscar Romero, Phillip Berrigan, Thomas Merton and others (Doubleday, available from www.amazon.com).


The Namesake, directed by Mira Nair (Vanity Fair, Monsoon Wedding), is based on the bestselling 2003 novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. The story spans two continents and two generations. Soon after their arranged marriage in Calcutta, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli move to New York, where he teaches and she tries to adjust to the loneliness of life in a world with many conveniences but none of the familiar rhythms and relatives of her life in India. They raise two children, a son nicknamed Gogol (after the Russian writer) and a daughter, Sonali. But as Ashoke and Ashima’s love grows over the years, their two children drift away from them and their friends, all of whom are trying to maintain their Bengali customs. A trip to India highlighted by a visit to the Taj Mahal helps them reconnect to each other and their roots.

Gogol changes his name back to Nik when he goes to Yale for a degree in architecture. He falls in love with an American girl. Like many second-generation immigrants, he struggles to define his path apart from his family but always is drawn back to them. As members of this lovable family play out their destinies in Calcutta and New York, we find ourselves identifying with their divided loyalties and their need for familial love, freedom and meaning. This is a great novel beautifully realized on the screen (Fox Searchlight, PG-13—sexuality/nudity, a scene of drug use, some disturbing images, brief language).


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