Christ the King Catholic Church
Each year on the Second Sunday of Lent the Church presents us with the story of the Transfiguration of Christ. Jesus takes three of his closest disciples up a mountain and, there, he is transfigured before their eyes. They see the glory of God in Jesus. They see his divinity. They understand that there is more to Jesus than meets the eye.
Up until this time, people had suspected that Jesus was more than just another itinerant preacher from Nazareth. People listened to him as he preached, and they said that no one had spoken like this before. Especially when he spoke of God, there was something different, very different about Jesus. He didn't speak like the Scribes and the Pharisees. When he performed miracles, when he healed the sick, when he gave sight to the blind, when he raised people from the dead, people asked, "Where did he get all this from?"
Peter, James, John and the Apostles were with him through it all. In fact, in the passage of the Gospel just before today's passage, Jesus had asked the Apostles who people said that he was. And they responded by saying that some said he was Elijah or John the Baptist or one of the prophets. And then Jesus asked the Apostles, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter steps up and says, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
And yet, when Jesus told them that the Messiah would suffer and die and only then be raised on the third day, Peter's faith faltered.
So now Jesus takes three of the Apostles up a mountain and, while he is at prayer, he is transfigured. His clothes become dazzlingly white, and he is seen in conversation with Moses and Elijah. Moses, the lawgiver, and Elijah, the great spokesperson of God in the Old Testament converse with Jesus.
And then there is the theophany, the voice from heaven that speaks and says: "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him."
On that mountain of transfiguration, the Apostles realize that there is more to Jesus than meets the eye. In spite of Peter's desire to build tents and stay there forever, Jesus will come down the mountain and continue his journey toward Jerusalem, where he will be handed into our hands, where he will suffer, die and be buried and rise from the dead on the Third Day.
That mountain top experience was meant to prepare the Apostles for the scandal of the cross. Peter, James and John were given a glimpse of Jesus' glory, a glory that would only be fully revealed on Easter Sunday, when Jesus would rise triumphant from the grave. We can all relate to Peter. Perhaps many ofus have a mountain top experience where we momentarily experience the glory of God and we, too, would like to stay there forever.
One of my favorite 'mountain top' experiences was one I shared with my Dad many years ago. I was in the seminary when my grandmother died. My Dad drove six hours to pick me up to take me to the funeral and then after the funeral drove six hours to take me back to the seminary. We left for the seminary around midnight so that I would be back for classes the day after the funeral. As we were driving through the night, we talked a little, but, for the most part, we were alone with our thoughts and dealing with the first stages of grief and loss. I will never forget as dawn broke we witnessed the most spectacular sunrise I had ever seen. It was like the heavens were opening right before us with every color of the rainbow. I remember looking over at my Dad and, with tears in our eyes, we both smiled at each other. That glorious sunrise told us that everything was OK for my grandmother. More than OK. My dad and I still had to deal with the grief that comes from death, we had to come down from that mountain, but that early morning sunrise strengthened us to deal with our grief with the strength that comes from faith.
Mountain top experiences are wonderful but, like Peter and the Apostles we, too, must come down the mountain and continue the journey. As we say so well in one of the songs we often sing, "We walk by faith and not by sight." As it was for Peter, James and John, so it is for us. We live our lives in the confident hope of the glory that is to come. We live the trials and tribulations of this present life in this confident hope. With this hope that our faith affords us, we live, and with this hope we die.
In today's first reading we encounter Abraham, whom we call the Father of all believers. God promises Abraham a land and when Abraham asks God where that land might be, God told him that he would show him. I always picture Abraham going home and telling Sarah to pack up everything, because they're moving. And when Sarah asks, "Where?" Abraham has to say he doesn't know! But, all the same, Abraham packed up everything and began an epic journey of faith. God promised Abraham that he and Sarah would have descendants too many to count. And God made that promise as Abraham and Sarah were advanced in age and childless. And yet, Abraham put his trust in God, and he became the father of all, who like him, through the generations to come, would put his trust in God and walk by faith and not by sight.
We sometimes say, "Seeing is believing." But the opposite is also true. Some things must be believed to be seen. This was the experience of Abraham and this is the faith to which we are called. A faith that recognizes there is more to life than we can presently see. A faith that recognizes that the trials and sufferings of Jesus, upon which we reflect during this Lenten Season, were momentary compared to the glory to be revealed in him. And a faith that assures us that the trials and tribulations that we experience in life are nothing compared to the glory yet to be revealed in us.
Every time we celebrate the Eucharist together, we get a glimpse of this glory. Heaven and earth come together around this table that prefigures a heavenly banquet that will last for all eternity. In every Eucharist, the Risen Lord, who suffered and died on the cross and who gave us the gift of his body and blood at the Last Supper, comes to meet us in Word and Sacrament to strengthen us for the journey ahead.
At every Eucharist we experience a foretaste of the glory that is to come. And, like the Apostles in today's Gospel, strengthened for that journey, we will leave church this morning ready to walk by faith and to meet all the circumstances of life in the coming week, bearing even, as Saint Paul tells us, our share of hardship for the sake of the Gospel and the glory that is to come.