My Dear Parishioners:
The splendid vision in our Gospel today comes after Jesus had said that “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Lk 9:22). This was no good news to the disciples who expected Jesus, as the Messiah, to drive out the Roman army of occupation and restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). Many of them would have begun to have second thoughts: Is Jesus really the expected Messiah? So a few days after, Jesus invites the three leaders of his group, Peter, James and John, to go with him up a mountain, to show them another angle on reality.
For many, mountains are a place of encounter with God. Moses encountered God on a mountaintop, and so did Elijah, and it was a favourite place of prayer for Jesus too. It was where the eyes of the apostles, their spiritual eyes, were opened and they caught a glimpse of a Jesus that their physical eyes could never see. Then they saw that the heavens were on the side of Jesus, and they heard the voice of the invisible God, “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him” (Lk 9:35). This was all the confirmation they needed, that Jesus was indeed the expected one, for heaven itself bore witness. Now they would listen to him and follow him all the way to his suffering and death in Jerusalem. No matter what happens they are now sure of one thing: God is with Jesus; final victory will therefore be his.
How often we experience absurdities in life, leaving us filled with doubt and with the question: Where is God in all this? Think of people who have experienced abuse, deep-rooted individualism and insensitivity from church officials, and they ask, “How can God be in this place?” and many of them give up the faith. Others are traumatized by their experience of social injustice and discrimination. They apply for a job but see people less qualified than they get the job because of having the right connections or the right accent. They see forceful people advancing in society through unfair means and they ask: Where is God when this is going on? Or you may know someone undergoing personal and family crisis like terminal illness, breakdown of relationship between husband and wife, between parent and child, between friends.
At times like these we need to climb the mountain of prayer and ask God to open our eyes that we may see. When God grants us a glimpse of eternity then we realize that all our troubles in this life are short-lived. Then we have the courage to accept the suffering of this life, knowing that through it all God is on our side. All it takes is a glimpse of heaven to empower us to take up our daily crosses and follow Jesus, knowing that the cross of Lent is followed by the victory of Easter.
Blessings, Fr. John