1) Transformation from pro-choice to pro-life : Dr. Peggy Hartshorn, president of Heartbeat International, tells a dramatic story about a woman who glimpsed the mystery of her unborn child. The young woman was seeking an abortion. She simply could not handle having a baby at this time. But she agreed to an ultrasound. When the baby appeared on the screen, the woman was amazed to see the perfectly formed body, the tiny legs and arms moving inside her womb. But the woman kept saying, "No, no, I have to have an abortion." Dr. Hartshorn felt sad. She knew that seventy-five percent of women who see an ultrasound decide to keep their baby - but that a quarter, nevertheless, still have the abortion. It seemed like this woman would be in that twenty-five percent. All of sudden, Dr. Hartshorn's assistant said, "Reach out and take your baby's hand." Dr. Hartshorn thought, "Oh, gosh, why is she saying that?" But the woman raised her hand and touched the monitor. As if by some divine cue, the baby stretched out his arm to the exact place of his mom's hand. On the screen his tiny fingers met hers. She kept her baby. There is a mystery inside each one of us - the mystery of the image of God. Today’s gospel tells us how three of the apostles saw a glimpse, a tiny glimpse, of who Jesus was. That would transform them and sustain them through some dark moments following Jesus’ arrest.
2) A Death That Gives Life: A few years ago, the television and print media carried the story of a seven-year-old boy who died in tragic circumstances while on vacation with his family in Italy. Armed thieves, attempting to take the family’s car and valuables, waited in ambush in the Italian countryside. As the car passed, the thieves sprayed a shower of bullets at the vehicle. Although the family was able to escape, some of the bullets had hit the young boy, while he slept in the back seat. A short time later, the child was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. People were shocked and outraged as the sad news was reported. But public outrage was soon replaced by wonder and admiration. The boy’s family arranged that all of their son’s vital organs be harvested and donated. As a result, the lives of eight Italians, each of whom received one or more of the child’ healthy organs, were forever changed. For some it meant being able to see again; for others death was postponed because a young vital organ had replaced an aged, defective one. Because organ donation was such a rarity in Italy, the gift of life was all the more remarkable. This story reminds us of the death of another son, whose dying brought life to so many. It is the life-giving death of this other son, namely, Jesus, which is the focus of our scripture readings for today.
3) "It's kind of hard to explain." A little boy asked his mother, "Marriage makes you have babies, doesn't it, Mom?" The mother reluctantly answered her son, "Well, not exactly. Just because you are married does not mean that you have a baby." The boy continued his inquiry: "Then how do you have babies?" His mother, not very enthusiastic about continuing, answered, "It's kind of hard to explain." The boy paused and thought for a moment. He then moved closer to Mom, looked her right in eye, and carefully said, "You don't really know how it works, do you, Mom?" (Pastor's Story File, October 1995 Submitted by Jim Pearring, New Harbor Community Church, Benicia, California). Believe it our not, this is one of the most dreaded Sundays in the Christian year for folks who use the Lectionary for their preaching. Why? Because it deals with the Transfiguration of Jesus. Generally, this is one of those "What does that mean and how am I supposed to explain that?" sort of passages.
4) "The March of the Ducks." On the side of the Peabody Hotel in Orlando, Florida, there is a cutout of a large duck symbolizing what came to be known as "The March of the Ducks." Each day at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., the hotel people lay down a dazzling red carpet across the lobby. Then one of John Phillip Sousa's famous marches is played over the intercom. Whereupon, ten ducks, in single file, march down the red carpet in perfect harmony with the Sousa march. The ducks take a dip in the hotel fountain and then march out again in single file, down the red carpet, keeping perfectly in step with the beat of the music. For those who have witnessed "The March of the Ducks," it is an event so vivid and real and uplifting and fun-filled that it's difficult to find the right words to describe the wonder and the beauty of it -- much less try to convince someone that it is true. Today's Gospel Lesson describes an event called “transfiguration of Jesus” so wondrous and so beautiful as to defy all description (Watch: http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=March+of+the+Peabody+ducks&um).
5) Noah and the ark: Two men were standing on a big city waiting shed, on a rainy day, trying to hire a taxicab, not an easy task, since it was raining very hard. One man turned to the other and started a conversation which went as follows:
First man: "If it keeps raining like this we'll all have to build an ark."Second man: "What's an ark?"
First man: "You mean you haven't heard about Noah and the ark, and the great flood and all those animals?"
Second man: "Look, my friend, I've only been in town for a day, and I haven't even had time to read a newspaper." Today's Gospel Lesson includes Mark's version of the Transfiguration story. Did I hear someone ask, "What's a Transfiguration?"
6) Metamorphosis of a revolutionary: The word "Transfiguration," means "a change in form or appearance". Biologists call it metamorphosis, the same Greek word used by the evangelist. There is a beautiful story told by Fr. Anthony de Mello in his book Song of the Bird, about the prayer of an old man who had experienced such a metamorphosis. ‘‘I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change the world.’ As I approached middle age and realized that half of my life was gone without my changing a single soul, I modified my prayer to: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change my family and friends and I shall be satisfied.’ Now that I am old and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been. My one prayer now is: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’ If I had prayed for this right from the start I should not have wasted my life.’’
7)"I have seen the face of the pilot.” Robert Louis Stevenson tells the story about a ship that was in serious trouble in a storm. A passenger on that ship, defying orders, made his way to the pilot, who seeing the fear on the passenger's face gave him a smile of assurance. Relieved, the traveler returned to his cabin and said, "I have seen the face of the pilot. He smiled and all is well." There are times in life when we need to see our pilot face-to-face. That's what happened in this mystical story that the Church calls the Transfiguration of Christ. Peter, James and John were there. Moses and Elijah showed up from the past. They have an experience that is mystical and out of this world. "Turn you eyes upon Jesus Look full in his wonderful face." What would a glimpse of Christ himself mean to you today?
8) Could your soul use a lift today? People pay big money for radiant faces these days. Face lifts are a thriving business. The only problem is that the soul has a way of seeping through. Maxwell Maltz is a plastic surgeon. He's in the business of lifting people's faces, but, Dr. Maltz says, "Even though I get marvelous results, patients are often not happy. I have come to realize that inner scars are much more difficult to remove than outer ones." Could your soul use a lift today? Have depression, difficulty, duties and daily routines caused your soul to sag, your spirit to falter, your heart to sink? Christ came to lift us. Our reflections on the transfigured Christ will give us a spiritual lift.
9) “I'll fight, I'll fight, I'll fight to the very end." William Booth. He was a Methodist preacher, too, you know. "Willful Will" they called him, but Booth became disillusioned with the political wrangling of the Methodists. So he left the church and started a Christian mission in the poverty-stricken East Side of London that reached out to the worst. That Christian mission became the Salvation Army, which declared war on poverty and homelessness. Or, as William Booth said: "While women weep, as they do now. I'll fight. While children go hungry, as they do now, I'll fight. While there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight, I'll fight, I'll fight to the very end." That was one hundred years ago. It seems like the kind of war all of us could get behind, the war on poverty, the war on homelessness. Maybe it's time for another William Booth. If you have a heart, help us. Discipleship is a matter of your heart. "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face” as Peter did on the mount of transfiguration. He'll give you a lift. He'll give you a life.
10) An army of green giants who kept on coming and coming. The legendary football coach Knute Rockne knew the power of fear. Today we call it "psyching out your opponent." Notre Dame was facing a critical football game against a vastly superior Southern California team. Rockne recruited every brawny student he could find at Notre Dame and suited up about a hundred "hulks" in the school uniform. On the day of the game the Southern California team ran out on the field first and awaited the visiting Fighting Irish. Then, out of the dressing room came an army of green giants who kept on coming and coming. The USC team panicked. Their coach reminded them that Rockne could only play eleven men at a time, but the damage was done. USC lost. They did not lose to the hundred men. They were beaten by their own fear. [A. Philip Parham, Letting God, (New York: Harper & Row). 3. W. Howard Chase in Vital Speeches.]
Today’s gospel says: “[Peter] hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.” Witnessing the transfiguration of Christ was not the only time the disciples were fearful in Jesus' presence.
11) “I meet God about 1 in every 8 worship services”: A young woman asked her older co-worker: “Why do you go to church every Sunday? Does something happen there that can’t happen somewhere else? And does it happen every Sunday?” The older woman replied, “What happens is I go to meet the God whom I’ve come to know in Jesus. God meets me in other settings than at church. However, I must confess that I’m sure I miss most of God’s appointments with me. I find that I live most of my days in a daze – as though I’m sleepwalking or on autopilot. I go to church to be reminded that that’s true.” The younger woman then asked, “So you go to church every week and God meets you there?” The older woman answered, “I go to church every Sunday and for reasons I can’t explain, I meet God about 1 in every 8 worship services.” The younger woman asked, “Then why do you go every Sunday?” “I go every Sunday,” said the older woman, “because I never know when that one Sunday is going to be.” Peter, John and James had that experience on the mountain of transfiguration.
12) Edmund Hillary and a Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay: Those of us who are old enough certainly recall that amazing story of almost sixty years ago, May 29, 1953. A New Zealand beekeeper named Edmund Hillary and a Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, were the first ever to reach Everest's summit. Here was a mountain - unreachable, tantalizing, fearsome, deadly - that had defeated 15 previous expeditions. Some of the planet's strongest climbers had perished on its slopes. For many, Everest represented the last of the earth's great challenges. The North Pole had been reached in 1909; the South Pole in 1911. But Everest, often called the Third Pole, had defied all human efforts - reaching its summit seemed beyond mere mortals. (Don George, "A Man to Match His Mountain," http://www.salon.com/bc/1998/12/cov_01bc.html) Now, success. And heightening the impact even further was the delicious coincidence of their arrival just before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and of the dramatic announcement of their triumph on the morning of the coronation. A "mountain-top experience"...literally. Today’s gospel presents the mountain-top experience of Peter, John and James.
13) "Well, what is it?" H.G. Wells once told a fascinating story. It is about an Episcopalian bishop, though he could have been a cleric in any denomination. He was the kind of man who could always be counted on to provide a pious platitude. He had a favorite answer that always served him in good stead. When troubled folks came to him, he would assume his best stained-glass voice and ask, "Have you prayed about it?" If said in just the right way, no more needed to be said. The bishop himself didn't pray much. After all, his life was quite uneventful. He felt quite self-sufficient. One day, however, life tumbled in on him, and he found himself overwhelmed. It occurred to the bishop that maybe he should take some of his own advice. So, one Saturday afternoon he entered the cathedral. He knelt down and folded his hands before the altar. He could not help but think how childlike he was. Then he began to pray, "O God...." Suddenly there was a voice. It was crisp, businesslike. The voice said, "Well, what is it?" When the worshipers came to Sunday services the next morning, they found the bishop sprawled face down before the altar. When they turned him over, they discovered he was dead. Lines of horror were etched upon his face. The good bishop had advised others to approach God in prayer, but when he found himself face to face with the Almighty, it scared him literally to death as Christ’s transfiguration scene scared the three apostles. (Haddon Robinson, Preaching Today).
14) Serve others after the mountain-top experience: In Port Arthur, Texas, there is a special school for very sick children, most of whom have few, if any, motor skills. One very sick boy lived at that school, dying little by little. As tragic as that is, that's not the point of the story. Unfortunately children get grievously ill every day. This little boy, though, had the good fortune to be living in the same community with some faithful believers who took the transfiguration story as their own. God's glory lived in them. They carried it with them wherever they went. A group of these folks joined together to go to this little boy every day and read to him. Since he was slowly dying, unable to move or read for himself, their act of kindness and ministry was the only activity that brought him any comfort. The social workers were amazed. Just being read to by three different women, one every day, transformed that boy. He was transformed from being depressed and despondent into a responsive bright young man. And even though his spark of life would soon leave him, it got brighter and brighter not dimmer. The boy died, but his life had been forever changed. It had been transformed by the ministry of these caring Christians. They had allowed the light of Christ to shine through them. And a young boy's life had been transformed. [The Clergy Journal, Logos Productions Inc, Inver Grove Heights, MN, Vol LXXIII, Number 7, pp. 88.)
15) Moses’ flute: John Killinger tells the legend about "the simple shepherd's pipe once played by Moses when he kept his father-in-law's flocks. When the pipe was discovered, many years after Moses' death, it was decided that it should be put on display for the benefit of his admirers. But it looked far too common for such an important purpose, so someone suggested that it be embellished by an artist. A few centuries later, when the pipe was given a new home in an upscale museum, a committee said it needed improving yet again. So another artist was employed to overlay it in fine gold and silver filigree. The result, in the end, was a breathtaking piece of art, a marvelous sight indeed. It was so beautiful, in fact, that no one ever noticed that it was no longer capable of the clear, seductive notes once played upon it by Moses." [God, the Devil, and Harry Potter (New York: Thomas Dunne, 2002), 162-3.] How do we tell what voices to listen to, whose advice to take, what directives are important, and what we should just let fall on deaf ears? In today's gospel text, the divine Voice from the enshrouding cloud offered Peter, James, and John simple, straightforward words: "This is My Beloved Son; listen to Him." The message and mission of Jesus was to guide the disciples, informing all their actions, influencing all else they heard. God's proclamation to those three disciples is the same for all who follow Christ today: Let Jesus be your high-tech hearing aid, filtering and clarifying what you hear and how you respond. Listen to him. Or as Jesus put it elsewhere, "Learn from Me."
16) Baby powder: You might remember comedian Yakov Smirnoff. When he first came to the United States from Russia, he was not prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores. He says, "On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk: you just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice: you just add water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to my self, ‘What a country!’"
Smirnoff is joking but we make these assumptions about Christian Transformation—that people change instantly at salvation. Some denominations make Christianity so simple: accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, confess your sins to him, you are instantly saved and born again. Some traditions call it repentance and renewal. Some call it Sanctification of the believer. Whatever you call it most traditions expect some quick fix to sin. We go to church as if we are going to the grocery store: Powdered Christian. Just add water and disciples are born not made. Unfortunately, there is no such powder, and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born. They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations.
17) Transformation in old age: Two old men are chatting. One man says, "My friend, you must try this memory pill I'm taking. I remember everything. It's an amazing memory booster." The other man says, "Sounds wonderful. What is the name of the pill?" The first man says, "Hmm! The name of the pill ... Let’s see ... Hmmm, what is the name of the flower produced on a garden plant with thorns? It's red ... You give it on Valentine's Day." The other man says, "A rose?" The first man says, "Yes, that's right!" Then, calling for his wife, he says, "Rose, what is the name of that pill which I take to boost my memory?"
18) Lenten penance: An Irishman moves into a tiny hamlet in County Kerry, walks into the pub and promptly orders three beers. The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone and orders three more. As this continued every day the bartender asked him politely, "The folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers?" "It’s odd, isn't it?" the man replies, "You see, I have two brothers, and one went to America, and the other to Australia. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank."
Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. As this continued for several days, the bartender approached him with tears in his eyes and said, "Folks around here, me first of all, want to offer condolences to you for the death of your brother. You know-the two beers and all..." The man ponders this for a moment, and then replies with a broad smile, "You'll be happy to know that my two brothers are alive and well. It’s just that I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent. Now I am drinking for the other two!"
“O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”
There is a mysterious story in 2 Kings that can help us understand what is happening in the transfiguration. Israel is at war with Aram, and Elisha, the man of God, is using his prophetic powers to reveal the strategic plans of the Aramean army to the Israelites. At first the King of Aram thinks that one of his officers is playing the spy, but when he learns the truth, he dispatches troops to go and capture Elisha who is residing in Dothan. The Aramean troops move in under cover of darkness and surround the city. In the morning Elisha’s servant is the first to discover that they are surrounded and fears for his master’s safety. He runs to Elisha and says, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” The prophet answers “Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” But who would believe that when the surrounding mountainside was covered with advancing enemy troops? So Elisha prays, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opens the servant's eyes, and he looks and sees the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:8-23). This vision was all that Elisha’s disciple needed to reassure him. At the end of the story, not only was the prophet of God safe but the invading army was totally humiliated. (Fr. Munacci)
3. Fr. Jude Botelho:
There are times in our lives when God seems to be asking us to make difficult and cruel choices, almost impossible ones! How can God be asking something difficult from us? Why can’t He be reasonable? If only we could have the ecstasy without the agony! Yet we all know that in life there is no escaping from the difficult situations that come our way. Only our faith and our love can transfigure our crosses.
|In the first reading we are told that God put Abraham to the test by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Surely God could not be asking such an unreasonable thing? After all, this son Isaac, was given to him as a promise. How could God go back on his promise? The other question we could ask is: How and why was Abraham so ready to comply? The only answer to these questions is the tremendous faith of Abraham and the passionate love of God, who rejected the practice of human sacrifice. God spared Isaac and instead provided the lamb of sacrifice. Although God spared the only son of Abraham, He did not intervene to spare His own son Jesus Christ.|
Victim or Victor
Charles Rayburn has been a victim of cerebral palsy since his birth. His only means of communication was an electric typewriter which he strikes with a stylus attached to a band around his head. In spite of his palsy, Charles Rayburn has published 37 articles in national magazines. One of his articles appeared in America magazine and dealt with the Stations of the Cross. Charles Rayburn is a living example of today’s reading about Isaac and Jesus. These three figures and the three readings are tied together by a triple theme –the theme of Sonship, Death and Deliverance.
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’
In today’s gospel the account of the transfiguration gives us some insight into the mystery of Jesus, Son of God. The transfiguration is an epiphany story. This is the earliest epiphany story about Jesus, where the veil is lifted and his apostles were given a glimpse of his future glory. The chief significance of this event was for Jesus himself. It was meant to confirm him in the course he had undertaken. But it also benefited the apostles, and it is this that Mark emphasizes. On the mountain Elijah and Moses appeared to them representing the prophets and the law respectively. Thus Jesus is seen as bringing the law and the prophets to fulfillment. We do not know what exactly happened on that mountain but it seems Jesus had an intense experience of the presence of God. He heard those marvelous words: “You are my beloved Son.” On Tabor Jesus felt comforted and affirmed. He knew that the Father was pleased with him and would give him all the strength he would need to face whatever lay ahead. With God on his side he could face anything. At times, life could be dark for us and we too need to hear those reassuring words: “You are my son the beloved, my favour rests on you.” People from time to time do affirm us, but their affirmation is conditional. “You are good but you need to change your behavior”! “You are good but only if you live up to my expectations!” Only God affirms us exactly as he affirmed his son Jesus. With him there are no terms and conditions even if we are sinners and have failed him. We will always remain the well beloved sons and daughters of God. On that mountain the Father affirmed Jesus and that same Father is waiting for us to come to him to be affirmed as his well beloved sons and daughters. Our problem is that as soon as we run into trouble our faith fails us. We think that God has abandoned us. But if we pray we will realize that God has not abandoned us, He is always with us. Like Jesus on Tabor we too can experience being affirmed by God, we too can be transformed by the power of his Spirit, if only we let Him into our lives.
John Updike wrote a short story called “Pigeon Feathers.” It’s about a young boy, David, who begins to have doubts about his faith. One night in bed David is thinking about his problem. Suddenly he decides upon a bold experiment. He takes his hands from under the covers, lifts them above his head, and asks Jesus to touch them. As David waits breathlessly, he thinks he feels something touch his hands; not sure if they have been touched or not. We can all relate to David in this scene. We too experience times when our faith seems to disappear or go behind a cloud. When this happens, we long desperately for a sign that God is real and that Jesus is the Son of God. Or to put it in another way, we long for a sign of Jesus’ glory, like the one Peter, James and John received in today’s gospel.
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’
You are my beloved!
You probably have heard of Jean Vanier who set up communities for the mentally handicapped. He tells us that in one of those communities there was a man named Pierre. One day someone asked, “Pierre, do you like praying?” “Yes,” he answered. “And what do you do when you pray?” “I listen,” answered Pierre. “And what does God say to you, Pierre?” And this was his touching reply, “Pierre, you are my beloved son.”
“Listen to Him!”
Perhaps you have heard of the man who wanted to test his wife’s hearing. He stood some distance behind her and said, “Honey, can you hear me?” Having received no answer he moved closer and again whispered, “Honey, can you hear me?” Again having received no answer he moved right up behind her and softly said, “Honey can you hear me?” She replied, “For the third time, yes!” – In some ways this story could be analogous of our communication with God. We constantly check to see if he is listening in hopes that he will respond to our needs. In reality, he hears us, but he has asked us to listen to him as well. Lent should be a listening time for each of us. When we learn to listen, our lives become obedient lives.
John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’
No Cross, No Crown
Arthur Ashe, the legendary Afro-American Wimbledon player was dying of cancer. He received letters from his fans, worldwide, one of which read: “Why did God select you for such a dreadful disease?” Ashe replied, “The world over, 5 crore children start playing tennis, 50 lakhs learn the game, 5 lakh turn professional, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5,000 reach Grand Slams, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to the semifinals, 2 to the finals. When I won the Wimbledon crown, I never asked God, “Why me?” Today, in pain, I shouldn’t be asking God, “Why me?” Wimbledon crown, cancer cross. That’s Christianity!
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’
Keeping the Commandments
Once there was a very sincere man who wished to live a holy life. So he went to his rabbi to seek his advice. The rabbi congratulated him on his ambition, then asked, ‘How have you been faring so far?’ ‘Quite well, I think,’ the man replied. ‘When you say well what do you mean?’ the rabbi asked. ‘I haven’t broken any of the commandments,’ the man replied. ‘I haven’t taken the Lord’s name in vain. I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t dishonored my father or mother. I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t been unfaithful to my wife. I haven’t stolen. I haven’t borne false witness against anyone. And I haven’t coveted my neighbor's wife or goods.’ ‘I see,’ said the rabbi. ‘So you haven’t broken any of the commandments.’ ‘That’s right, the man replied with pride. ‘But have you kept the commandments?’ the rabbi asked. ‘What do you mean?’ said the man. ‘I mean have you honored God’s holy name? Have you kept holy the Sabbath day? Have you loved and honored your parents? Have you sought to preserve and defend life? When last did you tell your wife that you loved her? Have you shared your goods with the poor? Have you defended the good name of anyone? When last did you put yourself out to help a neighbor?’ The man was taken aback. But to his credit he went away and reflected on what the rabbi had said. He realized that up to this he had been merely intent on avoiding wrong-doing. It’s surprising how many people think this is the highest criterion of virtue. But the rabbi offered him a new vision of goodness – not merely to avoid evil, but to do good. Up to now he had a negative concept of goodness. He had given him a new and better compass to guide him, a new and more challenging path to follow.
Flor McCarthy in ‘Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’
The Father’s beloved
The story is told of a sister at the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec. She saw a distraught mother carrying a tiny child and she went to meet her. The woman had come a great distance with the child, the only one she could ever have, she thought, and now he had an affliction which the doctors said was incurable. The only hope was a miracle, and she had brought the child to St. Anne’s to pray for that. The sister accompanied the mother to the shrine. “As we prayed” the sister said, “I witnessed the struggle and rebellion of this woman refusing to give up her child. Her suffering was terrible to see. Yet the miracle came. But it came to the mother, not the child. When she left I knew she had offered her child back to God and surrendered him as a gift. A few weeks later the news came that the child died. But the following Christmas there came a card with the picture of a beautiful baby boy, whom the mother had named Michael, the same name she had given to her first son. And the mother wrote: “Now I have a son in heaven and a son Michael to give me joy on earth.”
Emeric Lawrence in ‘Daily Meditations for Lent’
4. The connections:
THE WORD:Today’s Gospel is Mark’s account of the transfiguration of Jesus. In the event witnessed by Peter, James and John on the mountain, the promise of the first covenant (Moses the great law giver and Elijah the great prophet) converges with the fulfillment of the new covenant (Jesus the Messiah).
Throughout Israel's history, God revealed his presence to Israel in the form of a cloud (for example, the column of cloud that led the Israelites in the desert during the Exodus -- Exodus 15). On the mountain of the transfiguration, God again speaks in the form of a cloud, claiming the transfigured Jesus as his own Son.
Returning down the mountain, Jesus urges the three not to tell of what they had seen, realizing that their vision would confirm the popular misconception of an all powerful, avenging Messiah. The mission of Jesus the Messiah means the cross and resurrection, concepts Peter and the others still do not grasp.
HOMILY POINTS:The use of the Greek word “transfiguration” indicates that what the disciples saw in Jesus on Mount Tabor was a divinity that shone from within him. This Lenten season is a time for each of us to experience such a “transfiguration” within ourselves -- that the life of God within us may shine forth in lives dedicated to compassion, justice and reconciliation.
Love that calls us beyond ourselves is transforming. In the transforming love of Christ the Messiah-Servant, we can “transfigure” despair into hope, sadness into joy, anguish into healing, estrangement into community.
The Jesus of the Gospel comes with a heavy price: the glorious Christ of the Transfiguration will soon become the Crucified Christ of Good Friday. Accepting the God of blessing is easy, but when that God becomes the God of suffering who asks us to give readily and humbly to others and to forgive one another without limit or condition, then we begin to insulate ourselves from the relationship God invites us to embrace. In risking the pain and demands of loving one another as Christ has loved us, the divinity we recognize in the Jesus of the Transfiguration becomes for us the eternal life of the Jesus of Easter.
Once upon a puddle
Once upon a time there was a small pond, little more than a puddle, really. Day after day the fish in the puddle would swim around and around and fight over the waterbugs. The little puddle was cradled between the roots of an ancient oak tree, beside a flowing river.
One morning, the fish were startled by a sudden splash. An amazing, brightly colored fish had jumped into their riverside puddle. Its golden scales were luminous in the few rays of light that managed to shine through the muddy water.
“Who are you?” one of the puddle fish asked. “And what are you doing here?”
The luminous fish smiled, “I come from the sea!”
“The sea? What’s the sea?
“No one ever told you about the sea? Why the sea is what fish are made for. Fish needn’t swim in circles all day and fight over a few bugs. In the sea, fish can dance on the tides of crystal clear water! And there is abundance for all!”
A pale, gray puddle fish spoke up: “But how do we get to the sea?”
“All you have to do is follow me to the river and trust that the current will take you to the sea.”
One of the pond fish, the realist fish, swam forward with a hard, experienced look in his eye: “Talk of the ‘sea’ is fine — but we have to face reality. We know this pond. We know how to hunt for waterbugs. We can survive here.”
“But you don’t understand,” the luminous fish said. “I come from the sea. I’ve been there. It’s far more wonderful than you can imagine . . . ” But the realist fish snickered and swam away.
The nervous fish then worked up the courage to speak. “Do you mean we’re supposed to jump into that big river?” the nervous fish stammered.
“Yes, the way lies through the river,” the luminous fish explained. “Trust me . . . ”
But the nervous fish scurried away before the luminous fish could finish.
The professorial fish then interjected, “Our distinguished visitor’s proposal deserves consideration. Perhaps we could hold a series of seminars over the next several days and study the impact this will have . . . ”
The eyes of the luminous fish grew sad. “No, this is a matter of faith. You jump and trust the river will take you to the sea. Will you follow me?”
A few fish, including a very old fish who refused to give up the dream of better things and a young fish who dared to hope in new things, trusted the luminous fish and jumped as he showed them how. And the current swept them to an exciting new life in the great sea.
But most of the fish continued swimming in circles, hunting and fighting over waterbugs.
[Adapted from a story by Linda Douty.]
5. From Sermons.com
Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan of Yale University wrote a remarkable study of the significance of the person and work of Jesus Christ titled Jesus Through the Centuries. Dr. Pelikan demonstrates how Jesus has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture. Each age has made Jesus relevant to its own needs. Jesus has furnished each new age with answers to fundamental questions as every generation has had to address new social problems that tested the more fundamental questions of human existence. The world had to take note of Jesus as a rabbi, as the Cosmic Christ, the Ruler of the World, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, the Son of Man, the True Image of Man, the Great Liberator. In many other ways Jesus furnished the answers and the images that affected society in positive ways.
Dr. Pelikan's thesis is that Jesus did not and does not belong to the churches and the theologians alone, but that he belongs to the world. None of this is to say that we can make Jesus what we want Jesus to be. Quite the opposite. It is to say that the Christ is adequate for all our needs and that Jesus transcends culture in such a way that he is able to belong to each age and to address the issues of all time. To understand that, we can do no better than to look to the Holy Gospel for today, which celebrates the Transfiguration of Our Lord. In that momentous event we learn how and why Jesus belongs to the centuries. Look with me for a moment at all the small elements of this story and you too will see why Jesus belongs to the world and to the ages. Let's look first at...
1. The Event
2. The Happening
3. A Reaction
4. Some Gibberish
5. It Was Not To Be
6. Our View
7. Our Hope
___________________________Have You Checked Your Love Levels Recently? - Mark 9:2-9
Before he was a NASA astronaut and commanded the ill-fated Apollo 13 flight, the one that never landed on the moon but miraculously made it back to earth, Jim Lovell had already experienced being "lost in space." As a Navy pilot out on a routine nighttime flight, his aircraft suddenly lost all of its navigational systems. Miles away from his ship with nothing to guide him back to the aircraft carrier USS Shangri-La, Lovell decided to go completely dark. He turned off all of his cockpit lights and peered out in the utter blackness of the sea.
Soon he spotted a wrinkle of glowing water. The "glow" was created by the churning of the sea in the wake of the huge carrier. Tiny bioluminescent sea creatures -- jelly fish, crustaceans, shrimp, even worms -- that had been frothed to the surface of the sea glowed and gleamed a clear path through the dark waters directly towards the ship Shangri-La. Lovell, like Hansel and Gretel following breadcrumbs, simply followed that radiant glow until he found his ship and a safe landing.
If you grew up east of the Rockies, there is a good chance you have some sweet summer memories of catching fireflies. Cupping those little critters in your hand and then cracking your fingers open to catch them going "on" and "off" - how forever wondrous! Fireflies are yet another "bioluminescent" creature, organisms which are able to emit a chemically activated glow in the midst of darkness.
Before electric lights were available, early miners often used "lamps" powered by either fireflies or fish-skins. Both possessed enough bioluminescence to provide a safe, non-combustible light-source for workers where gases and fumes made any hot burning fuel a combustible potential for disaster.
Today is "Transfiguration Sunday" - the day we celebrate that moment when Jesus ascended to a mountaintop and the radiance of his divine nature was first revealed to his three closest disciples, Peter, James, and John...
_____________________On the Mountain Top, In the Valley
No great mystery. After all, life is lived in the valley, not on the mountain top. Things are different between the two. If you read ahead a bit in Mark's gospel, the contrasts are stark. [Read Mark 9:14-24]
On the mountain, we encounter almighty God; in the valley, there is an encounter with the demonic. On the mountain we encounter our faith's heritage; in the valley, we encounter those who consider questions of faith as occasions for battle. On the mountain, God's calming voice is heard; in the valley, human argument is heard. On the mountain, disciples are in a mood for worship; in the valley, the disciples are spoiling for a fight. On the mountain, the glory of God is revealed; in the valley, the power of sin and unbelief is revealed. "O Lord, carry me away to the mountain," might be our prayer. YES, Lord! But then we remember the place of our ministry is with those who need our help down in the valley.Changing in Preparation: Forty Days of Love
David Leininger, WOW!
Have you ever been confronted with a message that changed your perspective? One church chose as its Lenten theme, "Forty Days of Love." Each week members of the congregation were encouraged to show their love and appreciation in different ways. The first week they were encouraged to send notes to people who had made positive contributions to their lives.Why Do You Go Every Sunday?
After the first service a man in the congregation wanted to speak to his pastor. The pastor describes the man as "kind of macho, a former football player who loved to hunt and fish, a strong self-made man." The man told his pastor, "I love you and I love this church, but I'm not going to participate in this Forty Days of Love stuff. It's OK for some folks," he said, "but it's a little too sentimental and syrupy for me."
A week went by. The next Sunday this man waited after church to see his pastor again. "I want to apologize for what I said last Sunday," he told him, "about the Forty Days of Love. I realized on Wednesday that I was wrong."
"Wednesday?" his pastor repeated. "What happened on Wednesday?"
"I got one of those letters!" the man said. The letter came as a total surprise. It was from a person the man never expected to hear from. It touched him so deeply he now carries it around in his pocket all the time. "Every time I read it," he said, "I get tears in my eyes." It was a transforming moment in this man's life. Suddenly he realized he was loved by others in the church. This changed his entire outlook. "I was so moved by that letter," he said, "I sat down and wrote ten letters myself."
Receiving that letter was a transforming experience for Mr. Macho. It came from a mailbox rather than a mountaintop, but the effect was the same - his perspective was changed. God breaks into our lives and we are changed.
King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
A young woman asked her older co-worker: "Why do you go to church every Sunday? Does something happen there that can't happen somewhere else? And does it happen every Sunday?"
The older woman replied, "What happens is I go to meet the God whom I've come to know in Jesus. God meets me in other settings than at church. However, I must confess that I'm sure I miss most of God's appointments with me. I find that I live most of my days in a daze - as though I'm sleepwalking or on autopilot. I go to church to be reminded that that's true."
The younger woman then asked, "So you go to church every week and God meets you there?"The older woman answered, "I go to church every Sunday and for reasons I can't explain, I meet God about 1 in every 8 worship services."
The younger woman asked, "Then why do you go every Sunday?"
"I go every Sunday," said the older woman, "because I never know when that one Sunday is going to be."
Mike Ripski, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
__________________________Why Do You Keep Crying Aloud?
Elie Wiesel tells the story of a prophet who came to a city and delivered his message every day in the marketplace. After a time his ranting became a fixture of the city's life and people regarded him with amusement when they regarded him at all. Finally, a small boy, pitying the old man, approached him and said, "Sir, why do you keep crying aloud like this every day, year after year? The people here will never listen to you."
"I gave up hope that they would listen to me a long time ago," said the prophet. "I go on crying lest I begin to listen to them."
In the journey to Jerusalem the disciples are given a genuine moment, a transparent happening that reveals will clarity that Christ above all men has pleased God and above all others speaks for God. It is this glimpse that will sustain their discipleship into the future. They will continue to cry out in a world not eager to listen.
Scott F. K. Kober, A Genuine Moment
___________________________It's A Lot More Fun If You Open Your Eyes
What do you think about roller coasters? When I was a kid, I was deathly afraid of them. We didn't live too far from Great America, which was the big amusement park in our area. So we would go down there about every summer, but I would never go on a roller coaster with my brother or sister. They would always say, "Come on, you have to try it to see if you like it," but I was happy riding the bumper cars and the merry-go-round. The psychologists call that having a type B personality. Type A personalities are those folks who love roller coasters. That's what my sister Susan is like. She's a definite type A. Type B personalities like me tend to shy away from anything too exciting.
But then my senior year in high school came. I was on the student council, and the student council always went to Great America at the end of the year. I hadn't been there in quite a few years, and so I was looking forward to it. But still I had never ridden on a roller coaster, and for some reason I admitted that to my friends. They couldn't believe it. "You've never ridden on a roller coaster? Well, you're going to ride on one now." So I did, and I really did enjoy it. I was excited and terrified at the same time. After that first ride, my friend sitting next to me had one piece of advice. He said, "You know, it's even more fun if you open your eyes." You've probably heard it said before, "If you don't keep your eyes open, you're bound to miss something." That was me on the roller coaster. It's a good encouragement that we all need to hear once in a while: Open your eyes.
That's the encouragement that our God is giving us this morning. He says to the disciples of Jesus - you and me - Open your eyes and look at the glory of Jesus.
_____________________________What Goes Up Must Come Down
A little boy was out in his backyard, throwing a ball up in the air. An elderly passerby, not accustomed to such youthful delights, asked the boy what he was doing. He replied, "I am playing a game of catch with God. I throw the ball up in the air and he throws it back."
I am in no position to comment on God's ability to play ball, but I do know that whatever goes up must come down. There may be exceptions, such as Charlie Brown's kite! But as a rule, whatever goes up must come down. The process is so predictable that you could refer to it as a scientific law. The same process applies to our religious lives. It is a good thing to "go up" to a great experience with God, but we will become greatly disillusioned if we do not remember that eventually we have to "come down" again.
John Thomas Randolph, The Best Gift, CSS Publishing Company
____________________________I've Been to the Mountain
All this "mountain" talk puts me in mind of Martin Luther King's last sermon. He delivered it April 3, 1968, on the eve of his assassination, at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, the headquarters of the Church of God in Christ, the largest African American Pentecostal denomination in the United States. He concluded his remarks that night:
"I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountain top. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
David E. Leininger, WOW!!!
In Luke's account, Jesus prayed but the disciples slept. They had fallen asleep. With their heads in the clouds, they drifted off into an unconscious state. Remember the story of Rip Van Winkle? He fell asleep one day in a quiet spot on the banks of the Hudson River and he didn't wake up for twenty years. When he went to sleep, the sign above his favorite tavern read: "King George III, King of England." He was a subject of the British crown. When he woke up, King George was replaced by George Washington and he was an American citizen. The tragic part was that he slept through a revolution.
While he snored, oblivious to his surroundings, fantastic, earth-shaking events had taken place. This is what happened to the disciples. They were oblivious to all that was taking place. Don't be too critical of the disciples at this point. Many times we have our heads in the clouds, enclosed in our own little world and losing sight of the larger world, and sleep through great events. How many times are we preoccupied with our own self-importance? We become the prisoners of our own little world of trivialities.
John A. Stroman, God's Downward Mobility, CSS Publishing
______________________When You Talk to God, Your Appearance Changes
Antoine de Saint-Exupery was noted for his beautiful little book entitled, The Little Prince, but he also wrote stories about flight. He was one of the first professional pilots. He flew the mail in North Africa before the First World War. He wrote a marvelous book about flight, titled, "Wind, Sand and Stars." In it he drew an analogy between flying and the human spirit. He said, that is what we are born for. Our spirits should fly, be free, soar, take risks, and achieve great heights. That is what we are born for he wrote.
He said he experienced that kind of spiritual exhilaration when he flew, especially at night, over the deserts of Africa. Once when he came back to France, he took a train up to Paris, and sat opposite an old peasant couple in one of the compartments. He said he was shocked at what he saw. Their appearance was old, defeated and tired.
As he watched them, he imagined what they looked like when they were young. He pictured them falling in love, the man bringing gifts of love to his beloved, flowers and candy. She being flirtatious. Them getting married and looking forward to a wonderful future together.
He looks at them now, seated across from him, and considers that they are now like lumps of clay...
In today’s Gospel, Peter, James and John witness the extraordinary transformation of Jesus that we know as the “transfiguration.” Matthew’s account (which takes place six days after Jesus’ first prediction of his passion and his first instructions on the call to discipleship) is filled with images from the First Testament: the voice which repeats Isaiah’s “Servant” proclamation, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, the dazzling white garments of Jesus. Matthew’s primary interest is the disciple’s reaction to the event: their awe at this spectacular vision will soon wither into fear at the deeper meaning of the transfiguration -- a meaning that they do not yet grasp. As the disciples will later understand, the transfiguration is a powerful sign that the events ahead of them in Jerusalem are indeed the Father’s will.
To experience transfiguration is to realize that there exists within each of us the “divinity,” the love of God, that enables us to transforms our lives and the lives of those we love. It is exactly that love — that “divinity” — that Peter, James and John behold in Jesus on the mount of the Transfiguration. The power of that sacred presence shines through us, as well, even when we do not notice it or are unaware that God’s love is in our midst.
Peter’s reaction to the Christ of the Transfiguration contrasts sharply with his reaction to the Christ of Good Friday: While totally taken with the transfigured Christ in today’s Gospel, Peter will be too afraid to even acknowledge knowing the condemned Christ on Good Friday morning. Lent calls us to descend Mount Tabor with Jesus and journey with him to Jerusalem to take up our cross with him, so that the divinity we see in the transfigured Jesus may become in us the Easter life of the Risen Christ.
To become the person you once needed
When Sara became ill many years ago, bulimia was not yet a household world. Filled with guilt at her uncontrollable behavior, she was taken to specialist after specialist until someone was able to identify the problem as something much more than teenage rebellion. Slowly she fought her way back from the edge. Sara was surrounded by many loving adults, but no one could understand why she was doing this to herself. She didn't understand it either. Sara fought her disease alone and managed to conquer it.
Now happily married, Sara read a story in her local newspaper about a new support group for those suffering from bulimia. Although Sara had not suffered from its symptoms since she was a teenager, she was intrigued by the idea of a support group and went to the meeting. It was a powerful experience. The desperately ill young people there touched her heart. While she felt unable to help them, she cared about them and continued attending the meetings. Other than saying she had bulimia as a girl, Sara revealed little about herself at the meetings; she sat quietly and listened to the stories of others.
As she was about to leave one of the sessions, Sara was stopped by a painfully thin girl who thanked her for coming and told her how much it meant to know her. The girl’s eyes filled with tears. Sara responded with her usual graciousness, but was puzzled. Sara could not recall ever speaking to this girl and did not even know her name.
As she drove home, Sara wondered how she could have forgotten something so important to someone else. She was almost home when it dawned on her.
Her husband, who met her at the front door, was surprised to see that she had been crying.
“Sara, what's wrong?” he asked.
A smile broke through her tears.
“Harry, I've become the person I needed to meet,” she told him and walked into his arms.
[From My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.]
The lesson of the Transfiguration is that there exists within each one of us the spirit of God to become the person God calls us to be. It is the same spirit, that same “divinity,” that Peter, James and John behold in Jesus on the mount of the Transfiguration. The power of that sacred presence shines through us, as well, even when we do not notice. Like Sara, we are a blessing to others, simply by being who we are. We become what Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls “agents of transfiguration”: “God places us in the world as God's fellow workers -- agents of transfiguration. We work with God so that injustice is transfigured into justice, so that there will be more compassion and caring, so that there will be more laughter and joy, so that there will be more togetherness in God’s world.”
2. Andrew Greeley
Were the same people in the Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem and in the crowds which demanded Jesus' execution a few days later. Perhaps some of the same people were at both events. More likely, however, they were two very different crowds. The former was made up of his followers and friends from Galilee, the latter from the wandering mobs that characterize any city on a big festival day.
Where were the followers of Jesus? With a few exceptions they were somewhere else. They knew they couldn't fight "city hall." They realized that the dream was over and that what they had feared all along would happen. The leaders would snatch Jesus secretly and put an end to his "good news" which they perceived as a threat to their power. What the realists among Jesus' followers had predicted all along had at last happened.
The best thing to do was to go to ground and hide till the trouble blew over. Jesus was wonderful all right, but what had he done for them lately.
Once upon a time there was a basketball coach. When he came to his new school, they had not enjoyed a winning season for eight years. The media vultures naturally said he was a poor choice and pouted because no one had paid any attention to their recommendations. His first season the team broke even. The fans were unhappy. Maybe the media vultures were right. The next season, they ended up in second place in their conference. The vultures said that the team would have won if the coach had not made a lot of mistakes in key games.
Then for seven years in a row the team won their conference championship. The vultures continued to complain and the important alumni worried about how long the run could last. The following year the team finished in second place. The vultures went wild with glee. The coach was losing it. The next year was worse because the team was stricken with sickness, injuries and academic ineligibility; the coach had only one year left on his contract. .
The alumni were now whispering to the athletic director, get rid of the bum! What has he done for us lately. The athletic director agreed because he resented the coach’s popularity. They wanted to fire him on the spot. But the president of the school insisted that he be permitted to finish out his contract (Presidents sometimes have the odd notion that sports are not the only really important thing in a school.) The coach was booed at the early games as he tried to hold together a team of talented but inexperience freshmen. You know what happened then? They won the national championship and coach accented a ten million dollar contract at another university.
3. Fr. James Gilhooley
A child saw a dust-covered book. He asked what it was. His father replied, "That's God's book - the Bible." The boy replied, "You better return it to God because nobody here reads it." If our Bible is in good shape, we are not.
The Transfiguration was among the very few exhilarating moments in the career of Jesus. His was hardly a cake walk. It was one tough existence. We have a nasty habit of confining His horror moments to His last days. That judgment comes from not reading the Gospels.
The Transfiguration is so familiar to all of us that it has lost its original bang. We have to take off our wraparound sun- glasses. The scales of over-exposure must be peeled from our eyes in order to take a fresh look.
Our Leader was finishing an eight month tour of one night stands in the provincial towns of Galilee. He was eating nothing but junk food at greasy spoons. He considered Himself lucky when He got it. He was sweltering in the 100 plus degree heat and freezing at night under the stars. He was not sleeping. He was staying one step ahead of the cops. His audiences were receiving Him coldly.
Shortly before this account opens, the Teacher had told the twelve of His approaching death. They went into a downer. They had thought the glory days were coming. They had visions of twenty year service and retirement as monsignors on pension, clergy discounts, work on their golf swing, etc. And now this announcement. Who needed it?
Then Jesus took them on a three day forced march southward from northern Palestine. He had to wear a no-nonsense face. He feared a mutiny or suspected they would slip away after dark. That they did not reveals the love that already bound the apostles to Him. For them Jesus was Teilhard's smile of God.
Exhausted, they wound up at Mount Tabor situated near Jesus' hometown of Nazareth. The mountain runs up about 1800 feet. It is almost a straight ascent. When I was there, tourist buses could not reach the top. One had to go up in an eight cylinder auto. Imagine the physical condition of Jesus. As a boy said to me, "Jesus was no wimp."
He loved mountain tops. They brought Him closer to His Father.
Christ elected Peter, James, and John to join Him. The other nine, left at the base camp, were happy they had not been drafted. They were looking for a shady tree, a cool breeze, and a stream to do laundry and chill red wine. They needled the three drafted ones with the message, "Tell us about it tomorrow, fellows."
Their clothes sticking to their skin, the four finally got to the top about 4 PM. They were running on empty. The apostles had one thought: sleep. Jesus chose to pray. As Peter climbed into his sleeping bag, he mumbled, "Everyone has his own idea of a good time." In the early AM hours, the mountain top exploded as though hit by a nuclear weapon. The apostles were basket cases. Their Employer, "was transfigured before their eyes." He had removed His disguise. This was no carpenter. This was God. This was His Big Bang.
When Jesus put on a show, it was not low budget. The Big Bang must have been something spectacular. He deserved Oscar, Tony, and Emmy awards for best show on a mountain top ever.
The apostles were witnessing Moses and Elijah passing on the torch to their Leader. The Father was saying to Christ's followers, "You have been brought up to listen to Moses, Elijah, and their peers. Up to this point, they were my advance men. But now it is my Son you will listen to. He is numero uno. Him I appoint as your new Commander in Chief."
Next day Peter, James, and John came down that mountain jumping from rock to rock with the agility of boys. They were on a high. Their Jesus had proved to be a big winner. Their arduous climb in the sauna heat had paid off.
Heaven for them now would be forever spelled h-o-m-e.
We move into the second week of Lent. And, if you are off to a good start, bravo. Like His apostles, the Teacher has much to tell you at the mountain top. If you have yet to begin the climb, you can play catch-up. Jesus will toss you a rope and pull you up.
Reflect on Elizabeth Vanek: "The Transfiguration is not just an indication of Christ's divinity; it also reveals our potential to become divine." We can achieve "deification." Blow the dust off your Bible. Don't allow it to be the least read best seller of all time. Be a Bible reader, says Kenneth Woodward, and not just a Bible owner.
A brilliant magician was performing on an ocean liner. But every time he did a trick, the Captain's parrot would yell, "It's a trick. He's a phony. That's not magic." Then one evening during a storm, the ship sank while the magician was performing. The parrot and the magician ended up in the same lifeboat. For several days they just glared at each other, neither saying a word to the other. Finally the parrot said, "OK, I give up. What did you do with the ship?"
The parrot couldn't explain that last trick! It was too much to comprehend, even for a smart parrot. Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." Scholars over the years have tried to explain what in the world Peter meant by this suggestion. But, I think trying to find meaning to these words is pointless. It's simply the way Matthew explains: Peter was frightened and he just said the first thing that came to into his head. He simply could not comprehend what was happening.
In life, moments occur that are incomprehensible. The birth of one's own child is one of those moments. The loss of a loved one is one of those moments. September 11 was one of those moments. There are mountaintop and valley moments throughout life. We are never ready for them. They arrive unannounced changing us in irreversible ways. But there is one thing they all have in common. They demand that we be silent and listen. These moments have something to say to us, to teach us.
But too often our response is like that of Peter, babbling absurdities because we cannot understand the significant, the meaningful moment...
___________________________When parents are trying to teach their very young children basic social skills one of the first big lessons is "Use your words." Instead of grabbing, hitting, screaming, or crying, we teach our children to communicate their needs and desires through the use of words. Instead of snatching a toy away from another child we teach our kids to say "May I please play with that for a while?" Instead of screaming and throwing a tantrum, we teach our children to say, "I'm really mad," or "He was mean to me," or "She hit me!"
The power of our voices, the power of words, is the first power we want our children to tap into. Verbal communication is uniquely human and is a uniquely empowering gift.
Despite all the image-based advances in technology, "The Voice" is still the driving force in electronic developments. Voice power is still the ultimate power. Every new, successful emerging technology - for the past seventy-five years -- knows that voice power means market power.
Remember RCA? RCA famously advertised its first record player, the "Victrola," by showing the family dog with its head cocked in curiosity as it listened to a record player. The advertising tag line was, "His Master's Voice."
The "next best thing" in the past few years has almost always been a voice-based development. We now all routinely talk to our cars...
Nowadays the cost of a dinner and a movie keeps going up, and a vacation can be especially expensive, but if I really want to go somewhere I just take the change out of my pocket and lay it on the desk. It's like a time machine. Each coin has a year stamped on it, and just thinking about the year helps me travel back in my memory.
1979 is the year my first son was born and the year I started in ministry. 1981 and 1983 are the years my daughter and second son were born. 1988 is the last time the Dodgers won the pennant. 1990 was when I moved to Indiana from Los Angeles. 1994 and 2004 were the years I turned forty and fifty. 2002 was when I moved to Pennsylvania. And it's getting harder to find, but any coin with 1954 is my birth year.
I enjoy laying out the change in my pocket and just glancing at the dates. It's nice to carry these little reminders of important events, good and bad. But they're just one kind of reminder. We carry all sorts of reminders around. One of the most obvious is our date book, which we use to remind us of important events that are not in the past but in the future. We especially need a reminder for Ash Wednesday. It comes in the middle of nowhere. It's not like Christmas or Independence Day that fall on the same dates every year. Ash Wednesday is all over the map, from early February to sometime in March. What usually happens is that we notice someone with a smudge on their forehead and suddenly realize: was that today? Really, it's not very convenient. The least Ash Wednesday could do is fall on a Sunday.
It is an interruption. And it's an unwelcome reminder of an unpleasant fact. Dust we are and to dust we shall return. The grass withers and the flower fades....
IT WAS THERE ALL ALONG
I remember a time when I had misplaced my good pen and I was looking for it everywhere. I looked in drawers. I looked under things, behind things and in things. I looked on the floor, but it was nowhere. And then I found it. I was holding it in my mouth the whole time.
That is the way that life often is. We miss things that have been there the whole time. It is like when I was in college and my wife was on campus the whole year, but I never really saw her. Then one day, I SAW her. She had been there the whole time, but one day I actually saw her in my world. And she has been in my world ever since.
That is the story of the Transfiguration. Jesus showed his disciples a part of the world that had been there all along, but it had not really been a part of their world. They were bewildered, astonished and trembling with fear when they saw and understood that heaven was already here in their world and that Jesus was the King of heaven.
Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection:
1: “Lord, give me the grace for transformation.”
The word transfiguration means a change in form or appearance. Biologists call it metamorphosis (derived from the Greek word metamorphoomai used in Matthew’s Gospel), to describe the change that occurs when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. As children we might have curiously watched the process of the caterpillar turning into a chrysalis and then bursting into a beautiful Monarch butterfly. Fr. Anthony De Mello tells the story of such a metamorphosis in the prayer life of an old man. “I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change the world.’ As I approached middle age and realized that half of my life was gone without changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me; just my family and friends and I shall be satisfied.’ Now that I am old and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been. My one prayer now is: ’Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’ If I had prayed for this right from the start, I should not have wasted my life.”
2: Missing the point:
Once upon a time, a man took his new hunting dog on a trial hunt. After a while, he managed to shoot a duck and it fell into the lake. The dog walked on the water, picked up the duck and brought it to his master. The man was stunned. He didn’t know what to think. He shot another duck and again it fell into the lake and, again, the dog walked on the water and brought it back to him. What a fantastic dog – he can walk on water and get nothing but his paws wet. The next day he asked his neighbor to go hunting with him so that he could show off his hunting dog, but he didn’t tell his neighbor anything about the dog’s ability to walk on water. As on the previous day, he shot a duck and it fell into the lake. The dog walked on the water and got it. His neighbor didn’t say a word. Several more ducks were shot that day and each time the dog walked over the water to retrieve them and each time the neighbor said nothing and neither did the owner of the dog. Finally, unable to contain himself any longer, the owner asked his neighbor, "Have you noticed anything strange, anything different about my dog?" "Yes," replied the neighbor, " come to think of it, I do. Your dog doesn’t know how to swim." The neighbor missed the point completely. He couldn’t see the wonder of a dog that could walk on water; he could only see that the dog didn’t do what other hunting dogs do to retrieve ducks – that is to swim. The disciple, Peter, was good at missing the point at the theophany of transfiguration as it is clear from his declaration: “ I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
3: “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”
There is a mysterious story in 2 Kings that can help us understand what is happening in the transfiguration. Israel is at war with Aram, and Elisha the man of God is using his prophetic powers to reveal the strategic plans of the Aramean army to the Israelites. At first the King of Aram thinks that one of his officers is playing the spy, but when he learns the truth he dispatches troops to go and capture Elisha who is residing in Dothan. The Aramean troops move in under cover of darkness and surround the city. In the morning Elisha’s servant is the first to discover that they are surrounded and fears for his master’s safety. He runs to Elisha and says, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” The prophet answers “Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” But who would believe that when the surrounding mountainside is covered with advancing enemy troops? So Elisha prays, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opens the servant's eyes, and he looks and sees the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:8-23). This vision was all that Elisha’s disciple needed to reassure him. At the end of the story, not only was the prophet of God safe but the invading army was totally humiliated. (Fr. Munacci)