Sunday, March 20, 2011
This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.
Have you ever noticed in supermarkets a lady at the end of the aisle with a table full of little goodies to give out as samples? Usually the goodies are little pieces of cheese or meat served on a cracker. What the store hopes is that we'll get a taste of the product and want to buy it. It is a powerful means of advertising a product by enticing us to give it a try even before we have committed to buying it.
In today's gospel reading, Jesus is offering a little taste of his glory to us. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain and reveals to them his glory as the only Son of the Father. They had already come to believe in him because of his words and because of his miracles. In the previous chapter of Matthew's gospel, Peter had made his profession of faith that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This, now, was an opportunity to see for themselves the divine glory of Jesus which was hidden in his humanity. Jesus was giving them a little taste of who he was as the Son of God.
Jesus didn't bring Peter, James and John up the mountain just to show off to them. He had a specific purpose in mind. Jesus wanted to give them a taste of what his resurrection would be like, so they would desire it enough to endure Jesus' passion and death, and to endure the demands that ministry with Jesus would place on them.
Jesus was asking a lot from Peter, James and John. First of all, he asked them to leave their families and jobs. Secondly, he asked them to believe that he, a carpenter, was the Son of God. Thirdly, he asked them to proclaim that to others. Finally, he would ask them to accompany him through his suffering and death. Remember, it was Peter, James and John who would also go up to the Mount of Olives with Jesus as he suffered the agony in the garden. For them to accomplish all this, they would need something to hold on to, a memory of Jesus' glory to sustain them along the way. And so, Jesus' transfiguration gives the apostles a taste of the future resurrection to help them accept the suffering and shame of the cross.
Paul encourages us in the second reading: "Bear your share of the hardships which the gospel entails." Jesus is asking a lot of us as well. Unlike the apostles, we have never seen Jesus, yet he expects us to accept him as Savior and Lord. To each of us he has given a certain mission which he expects us to undertake. Whether our mission is to be a good parent, a good student, a good spouse or a good priest or deacon, we need help, especially when we encounter hardships. We need the hope that things will turn out okay, that things will get better, that we will adapt to whatever difficult situation we may find ourselves in. For us to be faithful to Jesus and to the mission he's called us to, we need small tastes of his glory. It could be as simple as someone telling us we're doing a good job when we feel like a failure. It could be a beautiful, sunny day reminding us of the beauty of our God. Or, it could be a powerful experience of God's presence in prayer. Whatever it may be, we need to hold on to those experiences to give us the strength to endure whatever difficulties we may encounter. And, we need to ask God to open our eyes to his presence in our life so that we can take notice of those transfiguration moments in our day to day lives.
God is revealing to us His glory in the face of Christ so that our desire to know and love Him will be greater than any difficulty we may face on our journey to Him. Peter, James and John were privileged to see for themselves Jesus transfigured in glory. We have to hold on to less dramatic manifestations of Jesus' presence in our lives as a small taste already on earth of the life that we will share with Jesus in heaven. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Eucharist. Bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ to give us on earth a taste of the intimacy we will have with God in heaven. Through the Eucharist, Jesus is really present among us and within us. We hold on to that small taste of future glory to sustain us during the hardships which come with living the gospel message of love. And, we claim it as a promise that one day that glory will be ours with Jesus at the end of time.