We all have crosses to bear, every single one of us. Often times we just try to manage them, doing so on our own. Coming face to face with our own crosses, we can easily forget about the glory that will be ours in the Resurrection."
Blessings to you this Lenten season! Last Sunday, we heard the account of the Temptation of Jesus in the fourth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel.
Today we fast-forward to the 17th chapter and the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. This amazing moment in the life of our Lord which Peter, James and John were privileged to experience, wasn’t just another day in Galilee.
Jesus’ First Prediction of his Passion
In Matthew’s Gospel, preceding today’s Transfiguration story is Jesus’ first prediction of his passion. This is most important in understanding the transfiguration experience.
What St. Matthew writes is: “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised”; and then follows with the conditions for discipleship: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?”
This sets the stage for today’s Gospel. This scene of the transfiguration of Jesus takes place on a mountain because mountain tops in scripture are places where something important happens and where God is encountered.
On a Mountain
Here are some examples: In the Old Testament, Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son on a mountain; Noah’s ark comes to rest on Mt. Ararat; the law is given to Moses on Mt. Sinai; Jerusalem is built on the top of Mt. Zion.
Mountains are places of encounter with God. In the New Testament, Jesus gives the law on a mountain: the Sermon on the Mount. He dies on Mt. Calvary.
Jesus leads Peter, James, and John to the mountain top where he was transfigured before them. This transfiguration was meant to help the disciples make sense of the previous prediction of the Lord’s suffering and death.
His suffering and death is what will lead to glorification. Jesus would then lead them back down the mountain on to the road up to Jerusalem where he would give witness to them, not just by word, but by example.
What we Suffer in this Life in the name of Jesus will be Gloriously Transformed in the Resurrection on the Last Day"
In the transfiguration, Jesus showed them clearly – indeed all of us – that what we suffer in this life in the name of Jesus will be gloriously transformed in the Resurrection on the last day. In other words, as the Transfiguration helped make sense out of the Lord’s own suffering, it too will help us make sense out of ours as well.
In reality, all people in some way will experience suffering, both physical suffering and emotional pain. It is part of the human condition. We all have crosses to bear, every single one of us. Often times we just try to manage them, doing so on our own.
The Glory that will be Ours in the Resurrection
Coming face to face with our own crosses, we can easily forget about the glory that will be ours in the Resurrection. Instead we want to run as far away from suffering as we can. Don’t we? But the Father said, “Listen to him!”
Denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following him will lead to our glory. But how quick we can be to avoid suffering! Listening to the words of Jesus, inviting us to be champions of the cross, is not easy.
St. Paul speaks about those who are enemies of the cross of Christ. An enemy of the cross of Christ is one who cannot see beyond the cross to the GLORY that awaits us. In predicting his own passion, Jesus knew the apostles would need something to hang on to, to give them strength. And so do we!
Carrying our Crosses Courageously and Joyfully
If we’re listening to him, the crosses we carry will be transformed in a glorious way, even as we carry them. They may not go away, but how we carry them will be different. Even in the midst of our suffering, we will experience new life, resurrected life in this life ... allowing us to carry our crosses courageously and joyfully.
When we embrace the cross in our life we are no longer its enemy. If we bring our sufferings to the Lord, we open ourselves up to a great intimacy with Him, and find our lives transformed.
Embracing our crosses united with Christ transforms our fears into hope, our sadness into joy, our weakness into strength, and our lives as ordinary men and women into disciples who can receive His love in the midst of the struggle! This ultimately will reveal that we have 'listened to him.'"
My dear friends, believe in God’s promise and the power of His grace to transform your sufferings, sadness, fears, discouragements and disappointments into wellsprings of grace and glimpses of glory.
Have a blessed Lenten season!
Bishop Robert Gruss