A Light Shining Through
GUIDING LIGHT - Rev. Fr. Benjamin Sim, Sj (The Freeman) - August 5, 2017 - 4:00pm

We may wonder what is the significance of this event of the Transfiguration.  Remember that Jesus was about to set out for Jerusalem and to his passion and cross.  Jesus had already asked his disciples who they believed he was in order to discover if anyone had realized who he was. 

But there was one thing that Jesus would never do – he would never take any step without the approval of the Father.  Jesus had gone there to seek the approval of God the Father for the decisive step he was about to take. 

There Moses and Elijah appeared to him.  Moses was the great law-giver of the people of Israel; Elijah was the greatest of prophets.  It was as if the princes of Israel’s life and thought and religion told Jesus to go on.

Moses and Elijah were men also wrapped in glory. Both were familiar with mountain-top experiences.  It was on Mount Sinai that Moses encountered God, who gave him the law – the tablets of the Commandments.  After that contact, Moses had to veil his face, because the glory of God shone upon his face. Elijah heard God in a tiny whispering sound on Mount Horeb. 

Moses and Elijah are proof of life beyond the grave.  These two men who left the earth more than 1,000 years before, are alive, conversing with Jesus.  They talk to him about his “passage,” his journey through suffering and death to new life.

Perhaps the most important word of the whole passage is – “Listen.” The voice of the Father says, “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to Him.”  The voice of the Father did not say, “Worship him” or “Follow him” but “Listen to him.”

A Peanut cartoon shows Schroeder holding a record of Brahm’s  Fourth Symphony. “What are you going to do with it?” asks Lucy. “Listen to it,” says Schroeder.

“You mean dance to it?” says Lucy.

“No,  just listen to it,” says Schroeder.

“You mean sing along with it?” asks Lucy.

“No, just listen to it,” says Schroeder.

“That’s the most stupid thing I ever heard of,” says Lucy.

To listen is to let go of our own ideas, and hang-ups and prejudices, and be open to another person, to what he is trying to say to us.  We often have our own ideas of what God should be, and where we can find Him.  We look for Him in miraculous manifestations outside us. 

And yet Jesus has said, “The Kingdom is in your midst.”  “The Kingdom is within you.”  Yet, we don’t find Him because we don’t listen enough, or we don’t know how to listen.

There are certain things in life that keep us from listening.  There is prejudice.  We may be so set in our ideas that our minds are shut.  A new idea knocks at the door but we are like sleepers who refuse to wake up.

There is mental lethargy.  There are so many who refuse the strenuous struggle of thinking.  “The unexamined life,” said the Greek philosopher, Plato, “is the life not worth living.” 

How many of us have really thought things out and thought them through?  It was said of someone that he had avoided the howling deserts of infidelity, and a wiser man said that he would have been better to have fought his way through them. 

Sometimes we are so lethargic that we will not even face our questions and our doubts.  There is the love of comfort.  There is a kind of defense mechanism in us that makes us automatically shut the door against any disturbing thought.

We often find it hard to listen to something, even the word of God.  We feel we have to be doing something.  But the voice from the clouds at the Transfiguration didn’t say, “This is my Son, love him.”  or “This is my Son, reach out to him” or “This is my Son, bow down and worship Him.”

It said, “This is my Son, listen to him!” Jesus himself always listens to the Father.  We see Jesus as a man of prayer.  He started his public life with prayer.  After he was baptized by John the Baptist, he was at prayer.  He prayed the whole night before choosing the twelve apostles. 

He withdrew to pray after a busy day healing and preaching.  He withdrew to pray after the multiplication of the loaves.  He prayed at the Garden of Olives before his passion and cross.  He prayed as he hung upon the cross. 

Here in the Transfiguration, he went to Mount Tabor to pray – to listen to the Father.  In his solitude with the Father in prayer Jesus shone with his glory.  It was as if light itself penetrated and enveloped him.  Even his clothes, once sweaty and dusty, were transformed into shimmering white. 

For that brief moment, he was the light of the world, shone like light, shone with the glory of God.  A glory that was the Son of God’s for all eternity.  For Jesus it was a confirmation that he was in the right direction, he was doing the right thing.  It is the Father saying, “What the world thinks doesn’t  matter, I think you are wonderful, my Chosen One.” 

Jesus was human.  He needed words of affirmation.  He needed words that would carry him through the horrors of the passion. The Gospel account says that a cloud overshadowed them and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to Him!”

It is as if God is saying, “My ways are not your ways.  Listen to my Son.  He will teach you my way.”

The Apostles could not understand the cross.  They were waiting for a triumphalistic Messiah.  They have to let go of their own idea of Messiahship and to listen to Jesus.

There is an old story of a monastery, where the members of the community was dwindling as the old ones were dying and no new ones joining them.  When the number was down to five, they decided to send one of them to consult a holy man in the mountain as to what they should do. 

When the emissary presented the problem of the monastery to the holy man, he merely told him, “Don’t you know the Messiah is among you?”

When the monk returned to the monastery, and told the answer to the others, the whole atmosphere of the monastery changed.  Each one was careful in treating the others, thinking that one of the others must be the Messiah.  They began to treat each other with love and respect.  Even if one of them happens to be grumpy or cranky, the others would be patient and kind.  After all it might be Jesus testing their virtues.

Soon the reputation of love and kindness in the monastery spread to the neighboring regions.  Young men began to be attracted to join the community.  And the monastery began to flourish once again.

The Transfiguration is a glimpse of life shining through the darkness of death.  It is a vision of faith that relieves the confusion of unanswered questions until the brilliant dawn of Jesus’ return in glory.

Today’s celebration gives us a glimpse into our future.  In seeing Jesus in his fullness.  We are given a vision of the future glory God desires for all of us. 

Unfortunately, on this very day, we are reminded of how short we can fall in reflecting the glory of God in our actions.  We live in a culture of death.  We hear and read of killings and massacres, in different parts of the world,  the frequent occurrence of bank robberies extra-judicial killings, where even innocent people are shot dead, traffic disputes that lead to shooting, more and more weapons of mass-destructions are being developed, nuclear energy is being misused. 

We live in a self-gratifying culture that advocates contraception and abortion, and mercy killing. As we approach our mountain-top experience of the Holy Eucharist, let us pray for the conversion of the world into a culture of life.  Let us pray for our own conversion that we may be more respectful of others, and more reverent toward life and God’s creation, to be more aware of God’s presence.

Let our life be a transfiguration – a light shining in darkness.

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