By: Bernadette Moore-Gibson
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Today’s Gospel proposes the event of Jesus’ transfiguration. I see the journey of what is to happen in Jerusalem, Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, as an exodus story for us through Jesus, a new Moses. In following Jesus on this Lenten journey, we are not making a meaningless pledge but a vow to live a life in constant solidarity with a radically inclusive Gospel.
Peter, James, and John climbed a mountain with Jesus and sat with him on the mountaintop. This was already a privilege for them because Jesus had chosen them to be present in his inner circle. They were already excited and they were in anticipation of what was to come. Then it happened. Jesus was transfigured; metamorphosed into something glorious. Then Moses and Elijah stood with Jesus and were discussing something with him. We don’t know exactly how long it was, but we might assume that it was only a few minutes and then it was over, back to reality. It was in the past, but Peter wanted to stay there where it was safe, it was beautiful, it was perfect. We cannot dwell in the past no matter how perfect and beautiful the moment. That doesn’t seem like good news. It can be disappointing to be forced to encounter the cross when you have encountered a mountaintop moment. Jesus tried to teach this to the disciples as they were coming down the mountain. We must not dwell on the past, but rather be mindful of the present and hopeful for future.
The path up the mountain proceeded with prayer and encounter. On that Mountain, Jesus revealed to his disciples the transcendent truth of who He is – and who Peter, James and John – and each one of us – will become in Jesus. Jesus knew God’s plan, and we can only imagine what was going through Jesus’ mind. We want to believe that Jesus came down and followed the pathway of God without pause or question. But if we believe that Jesus was fully man as well as fully divine then we must believe that Jesus had a choice and a difficult choice at that. But the love that Jesus had for us all trumped the difficulty of the path of God that went through Calvary.
What is the most provocative fact about the Gospel for me is that before Jesus was forced to make the decision to pick up his cross, his Father reminded him that he was the beloved. If we don’t believe that we are loved by God, all our life takes a drastic turn. The loss of experiencing the embrace of God’s love puts such restrictions upon the possibilities of every person to reach beyond oneself, beyond the temporal. It is with God that we live no longer in isolation, but as part of a family whose members have gone before us (the prophets), who live among us (the disciples), and who will follow after us (future believers). Knowing we are loved allows each of us to be transformed. God so loved the world that he sent his son and the son so loved the world that he chose the cross. We have to tell the people we meet along the path that Jesus loved us so much that he chose the path that led to Love.
The Transfiguration put Jesus on a new path. Moses and Elijah were encouraging Jesus to follow the plan that God had made for him. As he came down from that mountain renewed in love he was more resolute and determined than ever to follow the cross. He entered into Jerusalem with confidence, even though he knew what was to come. We do not have to be afraid on our own paths because Jesus has walked them before us and Jesus is there with us every step of the way.
We are all called to be transformed, as there is nothing more life-giving than losing ourselves to unconditional love, because God is that love. God desires us to offer daily our life of unconditional love as a sacrifice in the work against the lies of injustice, violence, and selfishness that attempt to trap those who live on the fringes of love. Especially today, we are called to offer our lives of unconditional love as a sacrifice to those whose exodus for life may involve traveling up a mountain of hard choices. Ultimately what matters is living a life of unconditional love such that God is reflected through it. We are called to change the world the way Jesus was teaching the disciples; with love, one person and one mountaintop at a time.