The Gospel today relates the story of the Transfiguration. It can be viewed from different perspectives. Usually, it is viewed from the perspective of Peter, James and John but today let’s think about it from the perspective of Jesus! But first let me share a ‘perspective’ story:
A man went into the confessional box after many years of being away from the Catholic Church. Inside he found a fully equipped bar with Guinness on tap. On one wall, there was a row of decanters with fine Irish whiskey and Waterford crystal glasses. On the other wall was a dazzling array of the finest cigars and chocolates. When the priest came in, the man said to him, “Father, forgive me, for it’s been a very long time since I’ve been to confession, but I must first admit that the confessional box is much more inviting than it used to be. The Priest replied, “You jerk, you’re on my side.” There are also many perspectives through which we could view Jesus’ transfiguration. What did it mean to Jesus? What did it mean to us?
We have all being praying a lot more this past year of the pandemic but what difference would it make to us if we could see and hear our Lord Jesus Christ praying for us? Would we be encouraged to know that God knows all about our problems, that we are not facing the challenges of life alone? Would our problems immediately begin to melt away since we know that God’s own Son is on our side? Would that vision inspire us to take the bold step of faith we have been afraid to take, knowing that with Christ on our side we are safe? Yet we do not need to hear with our physical ears Christ praying for us. We can hear it with our ears of faith. For “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
As Jesus led Peter, James, and John up Mount Tabor to experience happiness, He would also lead them down to face the ordinariness of life and its difficulties. They had to go down and face the real situation — but this time with a new perspective. They had been happy and found God in their midst but also in their suffering. Life is not about a search for happiness but a journey with God.
The transfiguration of Jesus in our Gospel was not just about Jesus. From our perspective I would like to see it as a vision of the glorious future to which we are all called. But we encounter problems and negativities and we get hurt going through life. We then have a choice: either to say and do negative things or to choose to remember who we really are – brothers and sisters of Jesus, sons and daughters of God since baptism. We can choose to remember that the glory of the transfigured Jesus awaits each of us.
Sometimes we say, “It’s impossible.” But Jesus says in Luke, “Things that are impossible for men are possible for God.” Sometimes we say, “I’m not able.” But Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, “There is no limit to the blessings which God can send you.” He will make sure that we will always have all we need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works.”
As we patiently wait to see how things will play out in our lives, it is important for us to follow the command that we heard in today’s gospel, “This is my Son the Beloved; Listen to him!” We need to listen to Christ and to his teaching as we endure all the twists and turns of life. Even though it is not clear how our lives will play out, we need to live as people who love our families and friends, who treat others with respect, and who care for the poor. As we commit ourselves to live lives of integrity and wisdom we trust in a God who will not forget us. When the disciples saw Christ’s transfiguration, they witnessed something they had never seen before. They saw something on an entirely new level, and so should we. When bad things happen to us, we must be patient and hopeful, realizing that good can turn to bad and then bad can turn to good again. Above all we must believe in a God who is powerful and real and who is working to save us. When things happen to us, is it good news or bad news? Who knows? Time will tell. But God will be faithful.
God’s grace has been granted to us before the beginning of time. Imagine, since the beginning of time God had us in his plan and had his grace planned for each one of us. Since the beginning of time God planned to transform YOU and ME through his Son Jesus.
“…we shall be like him…” (1 John 3:2) So the glory of the transfigured Jesus is awaiting each of us, thanks to our baptism. We may be tempted to think negatively because of events that occur to us, but let us not forget our purpose no matter what happens and no matter what others think of us or say to us.
The disciples who experienced Jesus’ Transfiguration had to come down the mountain and return to normality but they remembered the Transfiguration. Like them we live in normality but we believe and know that God has destined great things for us. We say that the Transfiguration prepared the disciples for the scandal of the cross. Celebrating Jesus’ Transfiguration early in Lent reminds us of what comes after the cross —- it reminds us of the glory of Jesus raised from the dead. In our worst moments of pain may we not think negatively but remember the encouragement we receive in Sacred Scripture and that God has destined the glory of the Transfiguration for each of us in the next life.
Today, our Gospel prompts us to look for enjoyment in our lives in whatever ways we can, but we cannot just escape challenges. In any state of our life, the best thing we can do is to listen to the voice of God. We have to settle ourselves down with Jesus and confront the difficulties which await us. Our mountain experience gives us the assurance that God knows what is happening to us. What we only need is to listen to Him.
-Dcn. Terry Murphy