When someone asks me to name my favorite scripture passage or story, I find it difficult to choose one. This weekend’s Gospel Story [Matthew 17: 1-9] of the TRANSFIGURATION is certainly among my favorites, though. Even before I visited the mountainside in Israel where it is believed that the Transfiguration took place, the experience has always inspired me —- a powerful, powerful message.
Peter, James, and John were weary and getting discouraged. The crowds that followed Jesus when he was healing the sick and feeding the hungry, were getting smaller. His preaching about suffering and death was not as appealing. Loving your enemies and doing good to those who hurt you is not as exciting as water being changed into wine. Jesus’ message about dying and then rising had to be confusing to them. In the midst of this mood, Jesus took them up on to the mountainside — away from everyone and everything. AND THERE, on the mountainside, JESUS WAS TRANSFIGURED BEFORE THEM.
STANDING IN HIS GLORY, there suddenly appeared Moses and Elijah. Not only could the disciples not stay there, there were told not to tell anyone else about this vision. A VISION of what lies ahead — A VISION OF WHAT LIES BEYOND — A VISION OF THE GLORY that belongs to all who persevere in faith. What they saw, was different from what they had been seeing. What they saw, was different from what they were going to see when they came down from the mountain. And, what they saw was real — and what they saw belonged to them.
In the Transfiguration, Jesus showed the disciples something that was always there — but something they did not see. We’ve all had those moments — we see something that has always been there, but when we ‘”SEE IT”, really see it for the first time.
Maybe we have seen a person over and over again — and then, something happens, and we see them, we understand them like never before. Maybe we have become so familiar with our good friends and our family that we take them for granted — and then, we realize the treasure we have. We SEE what we have.
What do you see in the world around you? What do you see when you look in the mirror? What do you see in the community around you? What about your Church family, what do you see? What would you like to see? Can you see beyond the moment to see what is possible? What is your vision of a good school, a good work place, a good parish?
Key question: do we shape the vision or does the vision shape us? I would believe that when he became Pope a year ago, Francis was already seeing something beyond the moment. He must have seen over the “shoulder” of March 13, 2013 to see March 13, 2014 and March 13, 2015. I would doubt that Pope Francis is “flying by the seat of his cassock.” There must be THE VISION of what he believes in faith the human heart should fee, what the world might look like, and how the Church should live.
What would you like to experience for yourself by the end of Lent? Will you see the same things you are now seeing?
Technology today allows us to put people into photos who might not have been there when the original picture was taken. The same technology allows us to take somebody out of a photo that we no longer wish to be associated with? We can take a picture of ourselves in our front yard — and then put the same image of ourselves on a snowy mountainside or a sunny beach. Yep, technology can help us to alter reality — to make us seem to see something — when it reality, it is not a true picture.
The Transfiguration was not a photo-shopped picture — it was real — it was a vision of what not only is possible — but a vision of what was ahead. Jesus was transfigured — Jesus was changed ——– so that Peter, James, and John would be renewed in their belief that they could and would be changed —- and the world around them would and could be changed.
1. Yes, the vision is real — the vision is possible.
2. The vision is what allows us to find strength to “bear our share of hardship” [2 Timothy 8-10]. Everyday is not a mountain-top day — every day is not a day of seeing the glory — everyday is not a day to see Moses and Elijah — everyday is not a day to feel that we are pulled out of the darkness into the light.
3. This is not as good as it will be — if it were, that would be quite depressing. There is something more out there — there is something better than now — there is something beyond this pain and struggle of today —
4. Hopefully we have all seen the better side of life — hopefully we have seen darkness turn to light — hopefully we have all felt the reason to keep on going — and the reason is better than — “I have nothing better to do!”
We are walking in faith — we are climbing mountains in faith — we are fighting the good fight in faith. We’ve seen the light — we’ve experienced the transfiguration — and we want to experience it again and again and again.