27 February 2010

LISTEN (DON'T JUST LOOK!)

2nd Sunday of Lent
Lk 9:28-36

Lent is like a song that calls us to conversion, to return to God and be reconciled with Him. Ps 95:7 is its refrain: “If today you hear His voice harden not your hearts.” Almost sounding like a broken record, the Lenten season echoes this very important call to us. Who cannot be moved? Who will not respond? Not the deaf, but only he who plays deaf.

Every second Sunday of Lent, the gospel is about the Lord’s Transfiguration. With three of His closest disciples – Simon Peter, James, and John, Jesus went up the mountain to pray. While absorbed in prayer, His face changed and His clothing became white as a lightning. The three disciples saw this and also Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. Moses symbolized the law while Elijah represented the prophets. The two Old Testament luminaries were discussing with Jesus the ‘exodus’ Jesus had to go through in Jerusalem. Sleepy though they were, the gospel says, Simon Peter, James, and John kept awake and witnessed the glory of Jesus. While Moses and Elijah were leaving, Simon Peter said, “Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; let us built three tents, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Luke immediately adds a comment after this: Simon Peter did not know what he was saying. Thereupon, a cloud covered the three frightened disciples. And a voice from the cloud was heard saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One. Listen to Him.”

“Listen to Him.” We are all viewing the events; we seem to have forgotten to listen. Like Simon Peter and the two other disciples, we are amazed at the transfiguration of Jesus and our attention may be fixed on what we see only. “Listen to Him,” the voice of the Father from the cloud said – this crisp command is the climax of the transfiguration of Jesus and not the transfiguration itself. The truth is that this command to us to listen to Jesus is the key to the meaning of the whole transfiguration story. To the three closest disciples of Jesus was given the privilege of seeing the glory of Jesus not for their self-gratification but for them to realize that it was very important that they listen to Jesus. Jesus is the “Chosen One” of the Father. He is the Christ, the Messiah, who came to teach us how to live. The apostles were the first ones to hear His teaching. Thus, the future of Christianity depends on how well they have listened to Jesus.

The command to listen to Jesus is not a vague command. In the gospel of St. Luke, the command to listen to Jesus is specifically pointing to the doctrine that Jesus was teaching before He went up the mountain of His transfiguration. That teaching is the doctrine of the cross. Before Jesus went up the mountain, with Simon Peter, James, and John, to pray, He revealed to His disciples how His earthly life would come to a horrific end: instead of being crowned as king of Israel, as His disciples were expecting, He would have to suffer much and be rejected, crucified and die, and on the third day rise again (Cf. Lk 9:22).

And not only that! His disciples must expect that the same fate. They must willingly carry their cross and follow Him. They must die to their selves. In the words of the gospel of St. John: “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). To follow Jesus, the path one must tread is the way of the cross. Christian life is the doctrine of the cross. A renowned Jesuit theologian, Fr. Lonergan, calls the same doctrine as the “Law of the Cross”. This law states that to share in the glory of God, we must share in the death of His Son on the cross. This is our teaching. This is our law. This is our life.

Of course, this doctrine was not only disturbing for the disciples. It was dreadfully frightening. Though the Jews were expecting the Messiah, most of them were not waiting for a suffering Messiah, despite the fact that the prophets already saw and prophesied this kind of a Messiah. Though they believed that God rewards those who are faithful to Him, they (and us as well) still needed to be taught that this reward is not always received here on earth and that the road to glory is often painful.

This explains the presence of Moses and Elijah, conversing with Jesus when He was transfigured. Though Jesus had not yet preached the doctrine of the cross, the life of Moses and Elijah already foreshadowed it. Moses and Elijah are honored today, but both endured persecutions from their fellow Jews on account of their divinely mandated missions. Their presence in the transfiguration of Jesus was not only to emphasize the truth the Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and of the prophets, as most commentaries say, but also to affirm that Jesus is the first, original, and best example of living according to the doctrine of the cross. They were discussing with Jesus the ‘exodus’ He had to go through, a new Passover where the sacrificial offering would not be a lamb from the market but Jesus Himself, the Lamb of God, a new freedom from the ultimate slavery, the slavery of eternal death brought about my the curse of sin, a Passover and a freedom – not only new but the summit and perfection of all Passovers and freedoms.

Did the three closest disciples of Jesus really listen well to Him? We know they did! Among the twelve apostles, James was the first who was martyred for preaching the gospel. He was beheaded by Herod Agrippa almost just a decade after the Pentecost event. Simon Peter also shed his blood for the gospel when the widespread persecution of Christians, under Emperor Nero, began in Rome. And John, although he was the only apostle who did not die a martyr’s death, suffered greatly nonetheless for the spread of the gospel before he passed away a blind and very old man in Ephesus.

Every second Sunday of Lent, this is the gospel we read because the Church wants us to hear every Lent the same command that Simon Peter, James, and John heard on top of the mountain of transfiguration. If we are indeed disciples of Jesus, we must likewise listen to the doctrine of the cross and make it the standard of our life. Discipleship demands sacrifices, but sacrifices, like that of Christ, should be life-giving sacrifices always.

The meaning of the Lord’s transfiguration for us is in listening to Him and not only in looking at Him. The voice from the cloud said, “This is My Son, My Chosen One. Listen to Him” and not “This is My Son, My Chosen One. Look at Him.” If we really want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we must obey His teachings. Obedience is impossible unless we listen.

“If today you hear His voice harden not your hearts” (Ps 95:7).

2 Comments:

At 10:42 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good evening Father Bobby.
I was required to ask a priest if there is a purgatory.
thank you po, God Bless

 
At 10:35 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post and this mail helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you for your information.

 

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