How does the hope of God’s kingdom help you bear your cross?
Sunday’s Transfiguration Story (March 13—2nd Sunday of Lent) is about such hope. In a personal application, perhaps it is about the revelation that the Lord has given you and will give to you ahead to have that hope in Who Jesus is and of what He promises and that He shall deliver on His Word.
The Transfiguration is about the Lord guiding all of us for what is coming. He sees it, and knows what we’ll need for then (and now). We have to listen for His directions or guidance. It’s the Word of the Father on Mt. Tabor in this Gospel: Here is my beloved Son, listen to Him.
We have a Lenten booklet that 275 of you in the parish are doing that includes a long look at this Transfiguration Gospel. This week we held some small group discussions on Luke’s Transfiguration account. Read Lk 9:28b-36 . You’ll also see I make a daily video to accompany the Lenten Companion booklet and Ascension Press videos on it.
Highlights of our small group’s take on it have been of the listening or focus message of it, as well as the Jewish Feast of Booths setting of it. People also gave first-hand descriptions of visiting the Mt. Tabor spot in person on a pilgrimage and their use of that great experience in knowing this Gospel. Some shared of the message of Luke 9 could be on how hard it is to go down from mountain top highs to the valleys or to the struggles awaiting down below. Some commented, though, how those highs, especially of the spiritually intimate or touching ones with God, are very useful to have later on to balance or manage the hard times. Surely Jesus was giving these three apostles a bolster of hope and a guiding point on Mt. Tabor before the tragic Mt. Calvary episode that awaited them.
We all mostly agreed that the Gospel is a turning point one in the Bible and its account of Jesus’ life.
It leads me to share with you in this blog about my own turning points of spiritual encounter with Jesus. In those conversion and faith times of meeting Jesus and better knowing myself and life’s meaning—they have been so helpful as I go on through life. I don’t find myself in fear or anxiety of trying to control things, for I have had an experience of Jesus that brings that peace and contentment within to live ahead and on.
I thought of some mountain top experiences in my life, literally and spiritually, in relation to this mountain top account. Likely at Mt. Tabor. On my parish You Tube video on Friday I shared a bit on one of them, which occurred in a retreat-pilgrimage in the Christmas break before my priestly ordination.
I can also add that my ordination was a mountain-top experience, although not on any peak, but at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in DC. The peak was to reach the turning point day of my vocation, quite a climb for me (like a Mt. Tabor walk-up!) after the years of college and work and seminary (1975-88. My ordination high got paired with a highly enjoyable tour of the USA with a sibling (a vacation before a July 1st parish assignment).
The consolations and revelations and blessings in my life have helped for the difficult experiences or sorrowing, downcast ones. So, I have had hope and some ‘heavenly glimpses.’ I have come to know the Lord in a loving, dynamic way as an adult. I have sought the Lord to be found, and He revealed Himself in some ways so far—by His Grace. It is good that it has happened, by God’s hand—for I have had difficulties and disappointments and dismays and disillusion times along my life’s path, too.
I won’t get into them here in the blog, but like you, I’ve had hard knocks. Still–
I think it has never been anything like what was up against the 3 apostles in the Gospel story.
What the apostles were facing ahead was of Jesus death, I think a rather major glimpse of heaven was in store for these three main ones, to have in the back of their mind or deep in their heart for this turn to Calvary. They would need it!
Jesus had just dropped the bomb. Already He had said it, as like at Caesarea Philippi, when the Lord informed His star-struck disciples that He, the Messiah, would soon die and rise again. Amazingly, that didn’t hit them as good news.
To these men—who only understood the Messiah in terms of providing the good life of God’s kingdom—news of Jesus’ death came as a sucker punch to their dreams. It’s no wonder Peter blurted, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (Matt. 16:22). Jesus’ reply to him and the others should cause us all to pause and ponder: (Jesus said). If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. —Matthew 16:24
In wake of their confusion over these reports on the future, Jesus took the key trio of disappointed disciples to a nearby mountain for a good dose of hope. They needed it. As we struggle with our own disappointments or hard challenges, we can use that same hope today from Jesus. We need You to lift our hearts, Lord.
Jesus says in 2022: Spend some Lenten time with Me. I have hope for you.
Hope will mean that we are helped to get though and to arrive well on the other side of things.
Hope is not about short-cuts or mostly about ways of avoidance of tests or trial. It’s about getting strengthened by the Lord for what will be the right touch for the need.
Hope does not look for a way around the Cross of Jesus. Hope will go to the Cross and then to the Crown of Victory.
Because Jesus did, and Eternal Hope is found in Him.
First things first—A Cross, then a Crown.
Let’s get back to the Transfiguration Account and its meaning now…
Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a high mount and there revealed His glory—the glory they would see one day in the kingdom they wanted to begin immediately. Jesus unveiled His glorious identity, which included some dazzlingly light of God’s glory, as much able these three mortals could witness it.
Peter liked it so much, though struck in awe, that he suggested that they all stay up on the Mount and enjoy the time, as getting up the tents for this Jewish Feast of Booths (of what happened to be on that calendar day).
Jesus explained to the apostles three that they’d next have to come down the mount and go with Him to the Cross. He told them: a cross came first. It would come first for Him—and it would come first for them. Following Jesus requires a denial of the will. Biblical self-denial means more than just denying yourself something, such as pecan pie. It can be a nice discipline on your self-control, but what self-denial more deeply means is of denying The Self. It requires a mindset of putting God’s desires before your own. In a word, it means submission to God, or humble orientation to God. If denying self speaks to our wills, then taking up our cross speaks to our actions that follow. And although we don’t carry literal wooden crosses, Jesus’ metaphor still demands a literal application of the struggle God calls us each to bear. My cross—and your cross—represents our difficult practice of trust and obedience that following God requires daily. We’ll need the help of Jesus in our hearts to show us what this wondrous love is about, and how we can imitate Him in living it to the Father. Thus, the stage continues to part three of discipleship, of following Him. We are meant to follow Him and not turn back to desire the worldly things and sinful pleasures and all the vanities of life. We desire God mostly. Whenever someone took up a cross in Jesus’ day, that person was not coming back. Joining Jesus in sharing His Cross involves the participation with Him in His giving Himself in the Mass to the Father. This is what is called as making a living sacrifice (see Rom. 12:1-3; Phil. 2:3-11; 4:8; and Col. 3:1-10). We bring ourselves around the Altar to honor and partake in His offering of His Body and Blood. It is our non-skirting around Calvary, but of visiting it for salvation, with ongoing reminder of how central it is to Christian Faith. (“Do this in memory of Me” is Jesus’ parting words of such abiding in Him.)
Coming to Mass, we set our minds on God’s interests rather than our own or of humankind. We set our focus on what the living Lord Jesus is doing and joining Him. Sunday is the Lord’s Day.
THE PURPOSE OF THE TRANSFIGURATIOn
The Transfiguration of Jesus gives hope for the future—when today we carry our crosses. We know that our set course with Jesus is to end in joy. It’s such a illuminating verse in the book of Hebrews, where it says Jesus endured His cross “for the joy set before Him” (Heb. 12:2).
Just like Christ, we always have to have a joy set before us. Daily. Continuously. Constantly. Otherwise we will live bitter, discontented and frustrated lives (see Matt. 5:12; Rom. 12:12; 1 Pet. 1:3-9).
We have a salvation in Jesus Christ. We have been saved for Him, to reach a way of completion, via this life unto Him in the next. Peter, James and John saw a glorious Lord; The Transfiguration of Jesus to us promises a glorious future and therefore frees us to focus on God’s interests rather than our own. We can find the Victory of Jesus by going the Way of Sacrifice and Humility with Him.
The glorious Kingdom will come indeed—Jesus showed the disciples that—but we live in this world which is fallen and broken and we will have our humanity/spirituality to live out. Fix your eyes on Jesus. He is the author and pioneer of salvation, and He is the finisher and perfector of our Faith. Hebrews says this.
It a Bible verse to pray a lot: Know that He lives within you. Hope upon that! Colossians 1:26-27 proclaims: To whom God chose to make known the riches of the Glory of this mystery, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. but now it has been manifested to his holy ones, it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.
So–tell me what you think: How does the hope of God’s kingdom help you bear your cross?