Today’s gospel is interesting, but first we should see that with the Transfiguration we missed the death of John the Baptist in the previous week’s cycle. At that time he wanted to be alone and withdrew to a quiet place only to be followed by the crowd. He ministered to them and sent them away and sent his Apostles across the Sea of Galilee. Like all of us, He obviously needed some time alone to think and to interact with his Father. In times when our hearts are troubled or some crisis needs to be absorbed, most people seem to retreat for some solitude and even prayer. Elijah in the first reading did that. As he waited for Yahweh, a storm came and an earthquake came but God was not there. In a quiet whisper he hid his face as God was there. But in the Gospel, we see Jesus finish his time of solitude and set out to catch up with his Apostles. A storm had come up and the boat was being tossed about and the Apostles were afraid. More frightening for them was to see Jesus approaching them on the water. It was like a ghost approaching them. In fear they cried out, only to be assured that it was He who was there. It is then we see Peter at Jesus call walking to Jesus and then starting to sink. A startling reminder that faith even in Jesus presence gave into doubt when human thought doubted the intervention of Jesus. Faith requires a constancy of thought and perseverance. In Matthew’s account of this, we see that the faith of all brings them to to declare that Jesus was the Son of God.
To be learned today are a couple of things. First would be that at times we need to withdraw or stand aside for some time and prayer. Rest and refreshment is good for our spiritual side as well as our physical side. A second thing though is to realize that God can come at that time of crisis and be a partner as we weather whatever storm there is. Unlike Peter, we should not give into doubt or fear, and should always maintain our faith and perseverance regardless of what is ahead. This has and will be Jesus message as he still goes up to Jerusalem and what lies ahead. He knows His Apostles’ faith will have them sink like Peter, yet like Peter they will be rescued by Jesus own love and resolve.
Today’s gospel of the Transfiguration is from Matthew. Luke’s account is read in reading cycle 3 in Lent leading up to Christ’s passion. We also see today in the second from 2 Peter that the author writing in the tradition of Peter gives an eyewitness account to “this is my Beloved Son”. Why Jesus chose just three of his Apostles is not completely clear, but in some way he was preparing them for what was to come. The meeting with Moses and Elijah was very significant because of their place and importance in the history of the Jews. Jesus shining face was alluding to His place and his coming ascension to the Father. The idea of visions was not unknown in the Jewish tradition. The fear of the Apostles, we see assuaged by Jesus plus his charge to keep the whole thing secret for the time being.
For us, I think we can see as we look at all three readings that we are looking at Christ and our savior teacher and also as the resurrected-ascended Son of God. Clearly, it is a celebration of our faith and an affirmation of Jesus and his teaching us the way. It is another way of affirming: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.”
Today’s gospel is about death and peace. Fear is the opposite of peace and Jesus is telling us that we should not be afraid of anything unless it can kill our soul. We know that if we believe in Christ and walk with him, we have life already and it will continue on even after death. With that life we should have peace and have confidence in God. Yet, I ask you as we live in this world, when everything is well and we are at peace, does it not seem that there is some kind of uneasiness or doubt that something could go wrong. In many ways this is true because we are still in a world and time that sin and evil are still around and we can be effected by it. However, God knows and watches and our faith ultimately prevails as long as we keep faith and weather any storm or hardship on the way. Jesus pointed out that the common sparrow or pigeon simply lighting on the earth is known by God. How much more is he not aware of his human creatures? So that Jesus is saying is that death is not to be feared for it is not an end in itself if we are truly men of faith and at peace, the true peace that knows God embraces us and awaits us as we finish our earthly journey. No matter what we face, it is a step or a moment to a final peace and union with God. All of us have seen loved ones go before us, and it is difficult to know why and understand. But let us all remember we are God’s creatures and we live in his time and in his kingdom. Certainly, we have questions and concerns at times, but his peace, his way is fully ours if we surrender ourselves and realize all our doubts and questions will be satisfied when we are fully embraced into his love at the end of our time.