February 28, 2021
This weekend I am serving the Maronite Community in Tequesta, FL
Genesis 22, 1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18 + Psalm 116 + Romans 8, 31-34 + Mark 9, 2-10
As disciples of Jesus Christ today, we are not much different from our apostolic ancestors. We would like to take the short-cut, but the path to glory goes over this hell of Calvary. Those who choose the will of God over their own will have no way of escaping the humiliation of service, the sufferings of love, and the death not only the death to self-will, but the reality of death for our bodies which may sometimes come painfully and slowly. Yet, we can and must find hope as Jesus did at that moment. For like Jesus, we are privileged to get a preview of coming attractions.
This is the pivotal moment of Mark’s Gospel. It is a turning point in the life of Jesus and in the life of his closest followers, the first one’s called. After this moment, Jesus is headed to Jerusalem, and we have the privilege of knowing what happens there which is why the Church puts this Gospel at this early time in Lent. We are headed to Jerusalem with him in this season. There are some details in this story that can speak to us as clearly as the words of Jesus.
First of all, the description of this event that Mark provides is an unmistakable comparison to the experience of Moses. The cloud, the glowing, the voice, the location on a high mountain is all there, and Mark’s first listeners would not have missed these details and they would have made the connection between Moses and Jesus.
Then there is another detail that we could have caught. The voice that speaks says the same thing that was spoken at the Baptism of Jesus with a slight change. At the Baptism of Jesus, the voice speaks to Jesus. This time, the voice speaks to those apostles. The first time it says: You are my beloved Son. This time it says: This is my beloved Son. What Mark reveals here is the inadequate belief of the Apostles. Two times in this episode, Peter gets corrected. The first time the narrator corrects his by pointing out that he did not understand what he was seeing. The second time, the voice corrects Peter who has called Jesus, “Rabbi”. That voice wants Peter and anyone else paying attention that this is no “Rabbi.” This is God’s Son!
The whole episode reveals how slowly one comes to faith in Jesus Christ, and it admits how difficult it is to accept the reality of the cross and the grim reality of suffering and death. In the Gospel, this is why Jesus tells them to keep quiet about what they have seen, because they do not understand what will have to happen first, suffering and death. They want a short-cut, and so do we. There isn’t one reveals Mark. If the Father’s will is to be done, it will mean being ridiculed, mocked, and abandoned. To get to the glory there will be death. To get to the Resurrection, there will be a Good Friday not just for Jesus, but for everyone.
For Jesus, this experience is a revelation and a confirmation of what he heard and discovered at his Baptism. It was his moment to accept all that was to come. For Apostles the appearance of Moses and Elijah revealed not only who was in their midst, the beloved Son of God; but also, what was going to happen to God’s son. Moses and Elijah were both prophets who suffered greatly for their prophetic role. But, Peter, James, and John didn’t get it. They were not ready. They just simply did not yet have the Holy Spirit. Their appearance should have told that what happened to Elijah and Moses was about to happen again. To those Apostles, an appearance of Elijah was to signal the end of time and beginning of the new creation. They got that part of it, because they were still trying to take the short-cut. “Let’s get to the glory” is their idea. Their Messiah was going to be a wonder worker, a man of power, strength, and unquestioned authority. At this point in their relationship with Jesus, that idea starts to come apart, and they become afraid.