Genesis 12, 1-4 + Psalm 33 + 2 Timothy 1, 8-10 + Matthew 17, 1-9
Fear and Shame are probably the biggest things that hold us back from becoming all that God would have us to be. This Holy Season invites us to find relief in the mercy of God. It reminds us week after week of the power of love and forgiveness, and of God’s compassion and mercy that we find revealed in the work of his beloved Son. While scholars debate over whether this text is preparing the Apostles for the future or a present revelation about the identity of Jesus we are left with the words spoken so simply and so directly. While Peter babbles on about tents which would suggest that he really does not understand what is going on, another voice speaks up insisting that we listen to this favored and beloved Son who then says, “Get up. Do not be afraid.” These are words he will say again and again to the daughter of a Roman centurion, to Peter’s mother-in-law, to the son a widow being carried to his grave, and one day to his friend Lazarus. “Get up. Do not be afraid.” I suspect that these are words he will hear spoken to him in his own grave. “Get up. Do not be afraid.”
“Listen” says that voice to anyone who is down, fearful, and ashamed. “Listen.”
Fear comes in the absence of love; shame in the absence of hope. Neither fear nor shame belong any who listen to the Word of God. Love and Hope are the very core of what is being revealed in the Word made flesh. In some way, every story, every event, every parable and incident in the Gospels is a challenge to fear and to shame badly needed in the times in which we live. It probably has always been so, but certainly in these times, fear is the tool for manipulating public opinion and human thinking. If you frighten people enough, you get anything you want. Fear has been used for a long time to keep people in bondage. Fear of beatings and punishment, fear of being left alone and helpless, fear of an unknown future keeps people trapped for generations when all the while, the truth, the gospel, is proclaimed to set us free.
Shame does the same thing. It robs us of hope. Shame is a secret hidden thing that traps us in hopelessness and drives us away from one another. It wears away trust, isolates us while it eats away at self-respect leading to deep sadness and a kind of misery that is desperate and lonely.
Into shame and into fear steps this beloved Son to reveal a God who says to shame and fear filled people, “Get up. There is nothing to fear.” What is revealed to those apostles is the mercy of God and the power of love. It is too good to be true, but it is. That transfiguration reveals what can happen when we listen, and what God’s love can do. Where there is love and hope, fear and shame have no place. That transfiguration is a sign of our call from fear to love, from doubt to faith, from shame to mercy and hope. The old order in Moses and Elijah yields to Jesus. Something new has come. Something new is to be discovered in us and for us when we listen. Peter is right, it is good for us to be here.
We need to be here and face our fears and our shame. We need to let the hand of Christ Jesus touch us and call us to rise. For us who share this life-giving and beautiful faith; for those of us who express and live that faith in our Catholic tradition, this season above all others comes with an opportunity to push back our fears, and name our shame; to be touched by the hand of reconciliation and mercy, listen to the life-giving prayer that says: “Through the ministry of the church, may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from all your sins, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The truth of God’s mercy and God’s love is known best by those who need it, hunger for it, and trust in the transforming power of God’s presence in Jesus Christ by the Spirit active and at work in the risen Christ living in us a Church. It is a good week, my friends. It is a good week for transfiguration, a good season to be transfigured, a good time to let our faces shine like the sun with the joy and the peace that comes from knowing, believing, and living because we are loved by God.