Homily for 2nd Sunday in Lent (b) 2018
Today we focus on the transfiguration of Christ. Have you ever had a transfiguration experience? Or any kind of spiritual experience? I ask the question in all sincerity. I have learned over the years that it is not uncommon for people to have a spiritual experience. I remember one lady I used to visit on a weekly basis. By now she was old and housebound. She was also lonely and depressed. And one night in the depth of her depression she saw a vision of her husband. He didn’t say anything She wasn’t frightened, on the contrary the experience gave her comfort and lifted her out of depression. This is just one example of someone who has had a spiritual or mystical experience.
Let me share with you another one, only this time it has striking resemblance to the Gospel. I was visiting a cathedral in Scotland with a friend. She was also sad because she had lost her husband only recently. We looked round Dunkeld cathedral in Scotland together, then I left first and waited outside. I noticed she was taking her time. Eventually she came out. At first she was quiet, didn’t say a word. Then she turned to me and said, “I’ve just had the strangest experience. I was in the cathedral looking around, not thinking of anything in particular, when I heard a voice which said, ‘I have given you John. Listen to him’. She looked round to see who had spoken these words, but there was no one. To this day she remembers that experience, even though it happened a long time ago. As a priest I felt a great sense of responsibility from that moment on.
So spiritual experiences are not uncommon; at least that is my experience, though I have only given you two examples, I could give you more. Jesus transfiguration was definitely a spiritual experience. Not only did he suddenly start to shine, but two people who were dead for centuries appeared to him; Moses and Elijah. And if that wasn’t enough the disciples hear a voice from God the Father, saying “This is my Son, the Beloved, Listen to him.” At the time they didn’t fully understand the experience, but it was afterwards, years later, when they’d witnessed Jesus passion and death, that they rememberd the experience and the words and it gave them great comfort.
Jesus was a mystery to them, and even more so when they saw him transfigured. There must have been a element of confusion at some stage: who is this man we have left everything for? But the voice of God is reassuring: “Listen to him”. And no doubt at first the disciples said that we have been listening to him; what have we been doing these past three years except listen to him. What was about to happen to Jesus will make them even more confused; when they see him betrayed, taken away from them, treated like a common criminal, beaten, mocked and finally crucified, they must have wondered if it had all been a mistake. Yet those words kept repeating themselves, ‘Listen to him’. It was only by listening to the words of Jesus that they began to understand the mystery of his passion and death; that somehow it was all meant to be; it was all part of God’s plan for the salvation of the world. It wasn’t a mistake. On the contrary.
In our lives too there can be mysteries, things we don’t understand, things that happen to ourselves and those who are dear to us. “How can God allow this to happen?” we might ask. But the voice the disciples heard on the Mount two thousand years ago, is relevant for all time. When we are in crisis or distress, confused or frightened, listen to him. Jesus is there at our side to reassure you, that all will be well, and that all manner of things will be well.
During Lent we are being prepared for the greatest mystery of our faith; the death and resurrection of Christ. Use the time well, prepare yourself. All of us will one day have our own death and resurrection. But the Lord says to us now, and especially during Lent, “Listen to him.”