17 March 2019 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, Fl
Genesis 15, 5-12, 17-18 + Psalm27 + Philippians 3,17 to 4, 1 + Luke 9, 28-36
Now, as we put the pieces together, we have to realize this: Peter has previously made his profession of faith, just a few verses earlier at Caesarea Phillip. This is not about them. It is not an experience that reveals the identity of Jesus. That has already been taken care of by Peter. This experience is for Jesus, and it is for his sake that it happens. So, we have Peter, James, and John. These are the three apostles that Mark tells us were with Jesus in the Garden of Olives after the Last Supper. That connects with the piece that tells us what Jesus was doing; praying. When we add the next piece, the location, we should be getting the picture: it’s on a hill. To make sure we don’t get confused, Luke does not name the hill. Finally, there are two people on either side of Jesus. In today’s Gospel, they are Moses and Elijah. In the scene we are putting together with these pieces, they are two thieves who really have no names in the Gospels. When we put these pieces together, we have an image of the Passion and Death of Jesus that can lead us to conclude that what is being revealed is for the sake of Jesus. This experience is given to Jesus to encourage and strengthen him for what lies ahead. It is as though the Father tells the Son how his experience on the other hill will really end, with him being gloriously present to the Father in the company of the great ones, Moses and Elijah. Obviously, it works and is enough to keep him going all the way to Jerusalem and to that other hill top.
Today we have a puzzle, and we have to put the pieces together. When we do, a wonderful and hope-filled revelation lies before us. One piece is who among the apostles is there. Another piece is where this takes place. A third piece is Jesus at prayer. A fourth piece is Moses and Elijah, and the fifth piece is what is said by the voice.
Proclaiming this Gospel, early in Lent raises the hope that those of us who are found in prayer will be strengthened and encouraged enough by this revelation to keep us going all the way not just all the way to Easter Sunday, but all the way on to the day when we too shall be so gloriously transfigured and be found among the saints. If it is so for Jesus, God’s Son, so it shall be for all of God’s children, especially to those who listen to him. For as Saint Paul says today: we will be “changed to conform with his glorified body”. It is this promise, this image, revealed to us today that should keep us moving forward in this life and this season never discouraged or fearful about what lies ahead even if it is painful, tough and frightening. Jesus knew he would be betrayed and those who opposed him would gather their forces to stop him, but the Father gave him this insight into how it would really end to keep him going. There is no reason to think it would be any different for all of us who listen to his word, who are faithful in prayer, and who trust in his mercy.