Year C Transfiguration Luke 9 2013

Face to Face
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

The 2010 drama film "The Social Network" portrayed many interesting features of Mark Zuckerberg's development of his online creation. But they missed a big one: the name he chose for his baby --"Facebook."

Let's face it: humans are obsessed with the unique, defining nature of our faces. The arrangement of our eyes, nose, mouth, chin, cheeks, forehead, never ceases to amaze and fascinate us.

More than 5000 distinguishable facial expressions have been identified, and that is probably just a start on the human face. The 18th century German satirist Georg Lichtenberg called the human face "the most entertaining surface on earth."

How could we possibly resist pursuing and endlessly perusing an online site called "Facebook?"

We recognize friends — and enemies — by their face. Bank robbers wear masks to hide their faces, knowing full well that, no matter how clear the pictures of their bodies might be, without a full view of their face, they cannot be accurately identified.

When the Protestant Reformers came across images of the saints and the Virgin Mary, they defaced them on paintings and had their faces gouged out of carvings and sculptures.

Babies look at faces — learning how to put the pieces together and how to recognize and trust the familiar, and reject and be fearful of the unfamiliar. It is in our human DNA to look into the face of others for critical, life-preserving, information. "We find ourselves in the faces of others" says Siri Hustvedt in her novel The Summer Without Men (2011). We become human through our relationships with others.

In short, long before "virtual life," human beings were walking, talking "Facebooks."

Our language reflects this fixation. We speak of taking things at "face value," or of doing an "about face," or of "facing off" against opponents. We "face the music," make "face time," and when dishonored we "lose face." "Face cards" carry the most value and to stand "face-to-face" with another signifies being in the most valued of positions. One of the most advanced new computer identification techniques is the science of "facial recognition" — computer programs that can scan and identify individual faces without any other physical information.

In the "transfiguration" scene described in this week's gospel text (Luke 9:28ff), Jesus' face shines... presents Leonard Sweet