We can often find ourselves in situations in which we would rather not be. The current corona virus outbreak is one such example. We feel powerless and scared, the future is uncertain, and panic can easily ensue. There are things we can do, precautions we can take, washing our hands being the main one. We can also pray for all those affected, and trust God to be with us in this troubling time.
In our first reading this morning God makes some large demands of Abram, to leave his native land, his nearest and dearest, what he knows and is most familiar with, to go on a journey, and to trust God. He has no idea where he is going, or what is going to happen, but Abram puts his trust in God, knowing that God has promised that Abram will be blessed and a blessing to others. God likewise calls each and every one of us to follow Him, and trust Him. This is not easy at all, but it is what God calls each and every one of us to do.
Likewise St Paul writing to Timothy while under house arrest in Rome, facing a trial that will lead to his death, is in a difficult situation. He is a prisoner of the Lord, who sees his own suffering as a sharing in the suffering of Christ. In this he is united with Christ and enters into Christ’s Passion, and through the power of God’s suffering love experiences true glory. What was true for St Paul is true for us.
In the Gospel, Jesus has just explained to His disciples that He must suffer, die, and rise from the dead. He then takes Peter, James, and John with Him, and when they are alone Christ is transfigured. The disciples are given a glimpse of the glory of God, a glory that will be made manifest in Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. Also at the moment of the Transfiguration the disciples hear the voice of God the Father. He tells us that Jesus is Jesus is the Son of God, that He is Beloved and God is pleased with Him, and that we should listen to Him. The key here is obedience, listening to what God says to us in prayer and scripture, and doing it. For God suffering and glory go together, and you cannot have one without the other, because the point is to demonstrate sacrificial love to the world, love which has the power to transform, and heal. Hence Jesus can tell His disciples to rise and have no fear, perfect love casts out fear. While fear is a proper response to the presence of God, God calls us in love to follow Him, and enter into the mystery of His love.
Jesus appears with Moses and Elijah to show His disciples and the Church that He is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets. Scripture points to Him and finds its fulfilment in Him: He is the Messiah, the Son of God. Peter responds in a moment with a very human response, he knows that it is good to be here and it helps to change his life. His response points to the Feast of Tabernacles when Jews remembered the giving of the Law on Mt Sinai to Moses. But this experience is not to be prolonged, it is a glimpse of the future glory, a moment to be experienced, and not a place to dwell.
When God speaks he tells us three things about Jesus: He is the Son of God, He is loved and we should listen to Him –- what he says and does should affect us and our lives –- we have to be open to the possibility of being changed by God. Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anyone about this until after he has risen from the dead. The detail is important: Jesus will go up another mountain to suffer and die upon the cross, taking our sins upon Himself, restoring our relationship with God and each other. This is real glory -– not worldly glory but the glory of God’s sacrificial love poured out on the world to heal it and restore it.
“Three important scenes of Our Lord’s life took place on mountains. On one, He preached the Beatitudes, the practice of which would bring a Cross from the world; on the second, He showed the glory that lay beyond the Cross; and on the third, He offered Himself in death as a prelude to His glory and that of all who would believe in His name”
Fulton Sheen The Life of Christ 1970: 158
That is why we are here this morning –- to see the self same sacrifice here with our own eyes, to touch and to taste what God’s love is really like –- to go up the mountain and experience the glory of God, so that God’s love may transform us. We are given a foretaste of heaven, and prepared to be transformed by God. This is true glory –- the glory of the Cross, the glory of suffering love lavished upon the world. The Transfiguration looks to the Cross to help us prepare ourselves to live the life of faith. To help us to behold true majesty, true love and true glory –- the kind that can change the world and last forever, for eternity, not the fading glory of the world, here today and gone tomorrow, but something everlasting, wonderful.
So let us behold God’s glory, here, this morning, let us touch and taste God’s glory, let us prepare to be transformed by his love, through the power of His Holy Spirit, built up as living stones, a temple to God’s glory. As those who are healed, and restored, reconciled, and given a foretaste of eternal life with him, so may God take our lives and transform us, so that everything that we say, or think, or do, may proclaim him, let us tell the world about Him, so that it too may believe and trust and have new life in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed, as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.