This second week of our Lenten Journey we find ourselves on the mountain top. I can still remember my first time preaching Transfiguration. I was a young deacon recently ordained. It was my preaching practicum and my subject was “The Mountain Top Experience”. The mountain experience has the power to change and transform our lives if we allow it to.
This year I invite us the reflect on the word’s of Saint Peter. “Lord it is good that we are here.” The goodness and grace of this moment is not for simply the awesomeness of the moment but rather to deep our faith and strengthen us to journey with Jesus to His destination of Calvary. It is good that within the midst of our journeying we pause from simply doing holy things to taking time to be with Jesus to understand His calling for us and to focus our hearts and minds on Him.
In the account of the Transfiguration, which we find in all three of the synoptic Gospels, Jesus takes three of His closet disciples to the mountain top with Him. As the disciples experience this glorious and magnificent sight they are filled with wonder and fear as well as joy and trembling. They are caught up in seeing Elijah, who represents the prophetic tradition and Moses who signifies God’s Law and Covenant with His People. They with Jesus are transfigured and their clothes become dazzling white the Gospel tells us. In the midst of Peter’s rambling and desire to remain fixed in the moment God speaks and says:
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
During Lent in the midst of our journeying responding to God’s word we are called to listen to Jesus. The pausing from the motion and commotion of the activities of life allows us to be more attentive. We move out of our place of security and certainty and allow ourselves to be vulnerable before God for Him to see us and we to hear His voice.
The Holy Father Pope Francis is calling us to two key elements in today’s Gospel that are vital to our Lenten journey and our ability to deepen our relationship with Christ and with those who suffer and are in need. Pope Francis first invites us to “Listen”. It is good that we are here so that the Lord might speak to us and we be open and able to hear Him. Pope Francis says:
“The voice from the cloud says: “Listen to him” (Mt 17:5). The first proposal, then, is very clear: we need to listen to Jesus. Lent is a time of grace to the extent that we listen to him as he speaks to us. And how does he speak to us? First, in the word of God, which the Church offers us in the liturgy. May that word not fall on deaf ears; if we cannot always attend Mass, let us study its daily biblical readings, even with the help of the internet. In addition to the Scriptures, the Lord speaks to us through our brothers and sisters, especially in the faces and the stories of those who are in need. Let me say something else, which is quite important for the synodal process: listening to Christ often takes place in listening to our brothers and sisters
in the Church. Such mutual listening in some phases is the primary goal, but it remains always indispensable in the method and style of a synodal Church.”
So we must listen to the Lord through His Word and through His people particularly collectively and communally as in the Synodal process. In this way we hear Christ’s voice and reflect on it through the lens of our shared experience. The gift of listening in this way is that each one is heard. Christ speaks through the poor and simplest amongst us just as he does through the learned and the magisterial or hierarchical church. All are heard, all are valued and all contribute to collectively hearing the voice of the Lord and stepping forward into mission.
I was truly wanting to shout an “Amen” to His Holiness’ words in calling us to secondly “focus on Christ”. What an insight, to often he reminds us, that there is overly a focus on the outward expressions of faith and a failure to look inwardly. The light of the Transfiguration didn’t come from some outside phenomena but rather from within Christ Himself. As Peter was too consumed with wanting to build tents to stay up on the mountain, Jesus encourages them not to be afraid but to journey with Him to embrace the trek to Jerusalem. Pope Francis says:
“do not take refuge in a religiosity made up of extraordinary events and dramatic experiences, out of fear of facing reality and its daily struggles, its hardships and contradictions. The light that Jesus shows the disciples is an anticipation of Easter glory, and that must be the goal of our own journey, as we follow “him alone”. Lent leads to Easter: the “retreat” is not an end in itself, but a means of preparing us to experience the Lord’s passion and cross with faith, hope and love, and thus to arrive at the resurrection. “
Let us be focused on Christ and the light that He shows us. We can experience and see in the lives of those on the peripheries that we encounter a glimpse into Christ’s passion. When we see the face of the poor, the hungry and rejected we encounter Christ. When see beyond the outward show and open ourselves to see Christ we hear Him through the witness of their lives.