Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Charismatic Conference – August 6, 2017
Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
Listen once again to the first line of today’s gospel: “Jesus took Peter, James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” … Do you recall when we meet this same trio going apart with Jesus again? … Jesus took Peter, James and John with him to the garden of Gethsemane the night before he died. They who beheld Jesus’ glory in the Transfiguration would also witness his agony in the garden. And why? Because to endure the latter, they needed to experience the promise of the former.
Later on in today’s Mass, when the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer is prayed, this reality will be acknowledged. Listen carefully for these words: Jesus “revealed his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses … that the scandal of the Cross might be removed from the hearts of his disciples.”
That makes great sense, doesn’t it? The disciples saw the transfigured Lord and that experience enabled them to face the harsh reality of his cross with a certain sense of hope. … But this does raise a question: What about us? It’s good and proper that the apostles had a vision that would sustain them in difficult times. Yet, again, what about us? We could put up with a great deal of suffering and uncertainty if we had a “mountain top” experience like that of the disciples – if we had a clear vision of the presence of Jesus reminding us that everything would be OK.
Where’s our vision to hold on to? So much of our ability to cope is determined by how we view life. The fact of the matter is that there are all sorts of moments of “transfiguration” all around us. We sometimes simply fail to notice them. It’s all a matter of how we look at life and the world around us, isn’t it?
I recall an author telling a story about a personal experience that he had on a New York City subway one Sunday morning. People were sitting quietly – some were reading the newspaper – some were dozing. It was a rather peaceful scene until at one stop, a man and his children entered the car. Soon the children began yelling at each other, throwing things and even grabbing the newspapers. It was all so disturbing. And yet, the father sat in that subway car oblivious to what was going on.
The author recalled becoming quite irritated. How could this father be so insensitive to the other passengers in letting his children wreak havoc on the train? Everyone was clearly annoyed. So finally, the author took it upon himself to address with situation with the father. With great restraint, he said, “Sir, your children really are disturbing many of us. I wonder if you could control them a bit more.” … The man life his gaze as if coming into consciousness and said, “Oh, you’re right. I’m sorry. I probably should do something. We just came from the hospital where there mother died an hour ago. I don’t know what to think. I guess my kids don’t know how to handle her death either.”
The author said, “Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? Suddenly, I saw differently. I felt differently. I believed differently. I felt so sorry for the man. Nothing changed in that subway. The same people and the same annoying children remained on that car. What did change was a way of seeing the situation.”
While I don’t remember the title, do you recall the song that begins with these words, “Open my eyes Lord. Help me to see your face. Open my eyes Lord. Help me to see.” … It would be well for us to pause every now and again to carefully look at our world, to peer beneath its surface to see all that really is occurring and to recognize the power and presence of God all around us. God hasn’t given up on this wonderful creation. Jesus gave his life for our sake and promised, in the great commissioning of his disciples, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” … “Open my eyes Lord. Help me to see.”
We complain because we don’t see our children as often as we’d like to see them. We feel cheated and a little bitter that they don’t spend much time with us, despite the fact that they’re working two jobs to provide for their kids and to care for them. … Then one day we meet somebody who’s really alone. No children. No spouse. No family. And yet, that person is grateful and looks at life as a gift. … And we wake up and we see life differently. We see how blessed we are by God to have others in our lives who care.
Or we bemoan the fact that we just can’t seem to make ends meet financially. We’re going to have to forgo that special item that we’ve wanted to have for a long time. And we wonder why God won’t let us get ahead. … And then one morning, we encounter a street person who sits in the back of the church every day for the early mass. This poor soul depends on handouts from others for his very livelihood. And we watch that person take was he was given a few moments earlier and place it in the poor-box for someone apparently more in need than himself. … And we see life differently. We see the selfless face of Jesus in the face of that poor soul who gave from his want and need.
And we say over and over again, “Lord, if only you would show yourself to us, we’d change our lives and we’d have what we need to face this crazy world in which we live.” … And we open up our bible and we read those familiar words of Jesus in Matthew’s judgment of the nations, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine – the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the ill, the imprisoned – you did for me.” … And suddenly, we see life differently, because Jesus is showing himself to us – in the poor, the hungry, the sick – if only if we’re careful enough to pause, to look and to listen and to heed Jesus’ promise and challenge.
Long ago, Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration. He surrounds us in this world to sustain us in our journey of life and faith just as he promised. … His face is familiar. … His needs are simple. … His consolation is great. … Yet, so often our struggle to see Jesus is rooted in the fact that even the best of us at times can become so consumed with ourselves that we don’t always recognize Jesus – we don’t always let him into our lives – and we don’t always don’t always risk saying yes to his message of life, love and service.
May we all have the courage to heed these words of Pope Francis. “Let the risen Jesus enter your life – welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk; you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid. Trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you, and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.”
So, my sisters and brothers, recall once again these words, “Jesus took Peter, James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” This time, however, let’s not ask, “What about us?” For without a doubt, Jesus carries us up to that mountaintop more often than we might ever imagine.
Hold on, then, to what the gospels tell us. If God is revealed in the human face of Jesus, Jesus is revealed in the human faces of those who touch us in love and whom we are privileged to touch in return. We need only to open our eyes wide enough to see Jesus’ sustaining and reassuring arms wrapped all around us.