Today’s Gospel (Mt 17:1-9) is the Transfiguration. Jesus takes some disciples up a mountain and shows them who he really is. Peter wants to stay there, but Jesus says to go back down the mountain and get on with their lives, and so they do. When we are open to the Spirit we see this Story as having meaning for us in our own everyday life, meaning we can all see it in a different way. So much depends on how open we are to the Spirit in our everyday living, and we choose just how open we are willing to be. When we think we have everything figured out and know just how God will act in any situation, usually about how God will or should treat others, we are missing a lot.
Jesus telling his disciples to go back down the mountain and get on with their lives shows we each are on a journey from God, with God, and to God. On this journey we are continually growing in many areas of our life, including, if we want it, in our awareness of, and our relationship with, God who happens in our life as it really is, not as we wish it were or as somebody else, a person or church, tells us it ought to be.
In the Gospel Jesus showing his disciples who he was is a one time affair. For us it is an ongoing experience which we can choose to accept or reject. It is also a real adventure, again if we want it to be. It is a lot easier and safer to feel we have God all figured out than to live a life of questioning, doubting, wondering, and growing.
As we walk down the mountain there are disturbing things all around us – the noise of our daily life, the uncertainties of our future, challenging relationships, health issues, chaotic political situation, etc. Our vision is distorted. We look for Jesus to free us from these things, to protect and watch over us from “heaven” where he isn’t too much a part of our lives, because if he were very involved with us we don’t know what he might ask. It is easier and safer to keep him at a distance as a rescuer, than as a real part of our everyday living.
In the Story Peter says, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here”. It is good that we are here at this time, in this place, with these people in our life. The Transfiguration Story tells us Jesus is right here with us. This is hard for us to take, because we want him to be a rescuer, a safety net, to get us out of whatever mess we are in, or at least to make it easier for us. The Story hints that, instead of rescuing us from this mess, Jesus is right here in this mess with us. Jesus’ friends had to make an effort to be open to him. They climbed the mountain. We have our efforts to make, our mountains to climb. This is not for us a one time experience, but one that we commit to and live every day. We move ahead with faith in what we cannot see. We do not know, we believe, and we question.
We believe that Jesus comes to us in the ordinary affairs of everyday life, even though logic and conventional wisdom would tell us that the world and our lives are so messed up that there is no way God is involved, and the only one who can get us out of them or fix them is Jesus. We don’t need to be rescued, and things don’t need to be fixed. We are not alone and Jesus is not “out there”. We are where we need to be, things are as they are, and Jesus is right here with us, speaking in our hearts. Illogical but true. This is what our faith teaches. As Jesus’ friends learned, he walks with us, we walk with him, we do what has to be done, and it isn’t easy. But life is as life is.
This past week during the World Youth Day in Lisbon Pope Francis said everybody is welcome in the Church, that God loves people as they are, and people just need to respond to Jesus calling them, and don’t have to get their act together before they respond to his invitation. The reaction from many has been predictable yet, at least for me, disturbing. Many are saying that he is destroying the Church by letting anybody in, and they would place any number of conditions on who can get in. Francis sees the Church as a field hospital after a battle, something I have firsthand experience with. Many others see the Church as a place for the saved. A field hospital is a messy, noisy, smelly place for the wounded, where a lot of good happens, and blood pressure and cholesterol aren’t a concern. People really care about the wounded and the dying, and do phenomenal things to help. For Francis this is what the Church is — messy, caring, smelly, doing phenomenal things to help. Yet, for some reason many reject all this.
Thanks to Alexa, this morning I’ve been listening to Sinead O’Connor and Lady Gaga. Both are reminding me there is a lot of suffering all around me these days. I believe Jesus is transfigured in the persons who are suffering, but what does this mean? Is there something he is calling me to do? I’m pretty much past the age where I can do anything substantial to help anybody. How is he being transfigured in my life? Do I really want to see him as he is? Or am I seeing him as I want him to be for my own comfort and convenience, using him to point the finger at others so I can feel good? Over the years I’ve come to experience that the Spirit is in the questioning, not the same pat answers that don’t really say much. Questioning is an act of faith as we try to know what it means for us to live as disciples of Jesus here and now. Just sayin . . .