Second Sunday of Lent: 'Listen to him!'
Posted: Thu, 25 Feb 2021 15:11
A reflection on the Transfiguration, in Mark 9: 2-10, the gospel for 2nd Sunday of Lent, by Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB. Image: Carl Bloch - The Transfiguration of Jesus, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
In the gospel today we have Mark's account of the event known as THE TRANSFIGURATION. Jesus takes his friends Peter, James and John on a hike. Last week we saw a Jesus alone in the desert before returning home to Galilee, while this week he is with friends in another type of wilderness. At the top of the mountain, the three friends were able to see Jesus in a whole new light. Traditionally the Hebrew people went up the mountain in order to be closer to God—Moses received the Torah on top of Sinai. On the mountain, Moses is once again seen with Jesus, along with great prophet Elijah. In this total transformation, Jesus is seen with the two great anchors of the Jewish faith: law and prophecy. The chosen disciples see Jesus in glory and recognise the way forward in a prophetic application of rules.
The voice of God urges the disciples to 'listen to him'; this is our call too: how are we going to listen to God during this coming week? The recent events in the US Capitol building helped us to open an honest discussion about who people LISTEN to and where they get their sources of news. As my nana told us when we were trying to pass the blame on to another, 'if they told you to jump off the roof, would you do it?' The insurrectionists can blame others for the violence, destruction and death, but there comes a time when they must accept personal responsibility for their actions. Words do count and the more responsibility we have, the more important it is to think about the power of the words we use. Modern news coverage has, in my opinion, sadly morphed into an exchange of views. I can choose the newspaper or cable news service that backs up my own political views—I need not be challenged or forced to listen to opposing points of view. Pope Francis points to the need for really listening:
We listen to so many things throughout the day, so many things ... But I ask you a question: do we take a little time each day to listen to Jesus, to listen to Jesus' word? Do we have the Gospels at home? And do we listen to Jesus each day in the Gospel?
Pope Francis, 16/03/2014
Peter was so keen to listen to that prophetic and life-giving message of Jesus that he wanted to stay on top of the mountain and enjoy that wonderful feeling of being with Jesus. However, Jesus leads them down from the mountain: glory gives way to the ordinary. I suspect that is the reality for most of us—we have moments of intense joy, and times of hurt, betrayal and pain. Most of the time, we are trying to deal with the ordinary, even in these most extraordinary pandemic times: are the children safe? Have I got enough food in for supper tonight? When does that report need to be on my boss's desk? The truth is that Jesus walks with us in the transfiguration experiences of life, in those moments of extreme joy; Jesus also walks with us in the problems and heartaches of life, and Jesus walks with us through the ordinary of life. Are we prepared to walk with him and to listen to his voice during this coming week especially? St Paul reminds us:
I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.
2 Cor 6:16
In their final moment on the mountain, the disciples 'looked around and saw nobody with them anymore, only Jesus'. The moment of life-giving light is over: redemption remains to be worked out in everyday existence, problems and difficulties that will not go away; satisfactions and heartaches; taken-for-granted familiarities and special times of mutual recognition; expectations and uncertainties; temptations; times of trial and moments of deep pain. However, through it all there is a realisation that humanity can suffer abject humiliation and be open to glorious transfiguration too. As the experience of COVID has shown us, we all experience deep pain and intense joy. The guiding virtues through all the changing scenes of life have been identified by William Blake as pity, mercy, peace and love.
To Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love,
All pray in their distress,
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.
For mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace the human dress.
Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.
'The Divine Image' from Songs of Innocence, William Blake, 1789
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB