Friday, 26 February 2010

This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him! (Luk 9:35)

The Gospel this week is from the Gospel of Luke 9:28-36. It is the Gospel of the Transfiguration. I would like to give a reflection on this Gospel in view of our Christian lives. During the Lenten period we can reflect on how our lives are going, and in what direction. The Gospel of the Transfiguration gives a lot of material of for reflection on the practical journey as a Christian, but also on our inward journey.

The Gospel starts with Jesus inviting Peter, John and James up a mountain to pray. Jesus is here inviting the three apostles to come with Him, to spend time alone. He is inviting them to deepen their relationship with Him. But in the same way Jesus invites us all to come to Him and deepen our relationship with Him. He is calling us all to a private communion and deeper communion and it is in prayer that we specifically meet Him.

He takes them up the mountain, not down to the beach... When Jesus invites us we still have to follow Him, and it will take time and effort. It is not necessarily in the way of  a struggle or an exhausting journey. It can be when in trying to follow God we start struggling with Him, this sometimes can be a side effect in our way of purification which can be quite heavy. But I think it always takes a bit of effort to follow God in the form of our Will. For most people, starting to follow Jesus, or following Him in general, always has a draw to the more, draw to the something deeper, and in order to continue this journey we often have to make little changes to our lives.

When they arrived up the mountain "as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white" (Luk 9:29 RSV). This is an experience which, some more than others, experience. Especially when we decide to start to follow God. If we decide to just give it a go and see where it would lead us. If we feel that there might be something in this whole message, if we are curious to examine it, God often gives little hints to show us the way. Later in the Christian life, as will become a bit clearer below, these occasions are less frequent, or seem to stop altogether. But in the beginning God often, but not always, gives us little invitations to seek His Face; God wants us to find Him, He is not trying to hide!

"Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him" (Luk 9:32 RSV) Maybe it is something like this to first encounter the full glory of God. I lived for twenty-one years without really realising that God existed, and when I woke from my slumbers and saw His radiance and His glory, I was dazzled... discovering what it really means can have this effect on anyone...

"Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah" (Luk 9:33 RSV) Peter said this while Moses and Elijah were leaving. He did not want them to leave, but wanted them to stay where they were, so the moment would last. Jesus, Moses and Elijah had been speaking "of [Jesus] departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem" (Luk 9:31 RSV). Peter did not want to leave the mountain and go back down  into the valley. Going down into the valley would not only lead back to the normal life but also meant to embark the way to Jerusalem and ultimately to the cross.

And this is often the case with ourselves as well, as well in our 'internal' lives as our 'external' lives. We like to stay on the mountain, stay on the 'high'. Once we profoundly encounter God, we like to keep this closeness with us, and linger on in it. When things are going well, we don't want to move on.

Finally with a lot of hard work we reached the top of the mountain and don't want to leave! But here we get the real message of Christianity, we are on a journey. It is not about being in an ecstasy, but it is a path to something deeper. If Jesus would have stayed on the mountain He would never have  been crucified, and He would never have redeemed us. The Christian message is a message of Hope, not a message of an easy life. However, the Gospel explains life and gives it meaning and reason. The reason is our eternal redemption which was exactly achieved by Jesus coming down from the mountain and going to the valley to go up to Jerusalem, and finally mounting the wood of the cross.

So in our spiritual lives good times come, when we are close to God, but also go and there are times when God does not seem as close, He 'feels' far away. But this is because this 'feeling' is often associated with a sensation. Our relationship is much deeper than sensations as we daily experience them. A married couple would vouch for after many living together for many years, the mutual attraction is not just a feeling. And it is the same with God, but with God it is even deeper than with human relations.

God's love moulds and forms us on a much deeper level, on a much deeper level which is beyond our direct perception. We are pilgrims on our way. We have a desire for God, and through Grace and Virtue we slowly grow closer and closer to God, and we notice over times that there is a deeper happiness and peace which is settling in the inmost secret place of our soul, something that cannot be shaken or changed by sensations and emotions.

There are also times when we think we are all lost, and these times can come very suddenly. The apostles with Jesus "were afraid as they entered the cloud" (Luk 9:34 RSV). But we have to remind ourselves that God is always there with us, whether we feel it or not. A close relation is not usually killed or destroyed in a short time. In these times, we should think of the voice saying "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" (Luk 9:35 RSV) and we should trust Him. Eventually we experience that  "Jesus was found alone" (Luk 9:36 RSV). At the end of all our bliss and turmoil He has always been there, and will always be.

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