Second Sunday of Lent (Year C) 2019
I’ve often heard this Gospel. I must have heard it hundreds of times. But when I was preparing this homily a question arose in my head for the first time: why did Christ take his discples up a mountain? Couldn’t he have prayed somewhere else? Couldn’t he have prayed in his room? After all didn’t he teach his disciples to do just that? And while I was pondering over this question it struck me that maybe he just wanted to get away from it all: the hustle and bustle, and where better to go than up a mountain.
Mountain tops must be good places to pray: where you can see for miles and miles; it can be so beautiful, and the air so fresh. It is easy to pray on a mountain. I’m sure when the three disciples set off they didn’t expect to see Moses & Elijah. Nor surely did they expect to see Jesus clothes begin to shine; as ‘brilliant as lightning’. Then the cloud descends and it all gets a bit scary, in fact, a lot scary, when they hear a voice saying; “This is my Son, listen to Him”.
They had just gone up the mountain for a bit of exercise and to say a prayer with Jesus. Then this happens. They didn’t say a word to anyone afterwards. How could they? Who would believe them? You can imagine the reaction of other fishermen back home: off enjoying themselves up a mountain, while they were left to do the work. Then to be told that they saw Moses and Elijah with Jesus, people who’d been dead for a thousand years and more, and that Jesus had gone all funny and they heard the voice of God. Yes, I can see why they kept quiet.
But this experience was to change their lives. On the mountain they had been scared but at the same time also fascinated. So much so that they wanted to stay there. That’s why they asked Christ if they could build three tents: they wanted to stay. They didn’t want to go back down to reality; to the fishermen, to the work, to life as it had been up to that point. But Jesus said no tents: that they had to go back down the mountain, back to normality. Which they did: but they never forgot this experience.
To escape from reality is a common enough desire. That’s why holidays are so popular: either to go up a mountain or to go the seaside: but getting away from it all is important; forgetting all the cares and worries for a week or two. And when we have a perfect holiday who doesn’t want to stay there forever.
But being a christian isn’t about escapism; it’s about facing up to reality, with all its problems and difficulties. Our faith in Christ, in the Gospel, is supposed to change our lives; in a sense to transfigure them. It is then our duty to tell others about our faith. We’re not to stay on the mountain, but rather to come back down, and to share the good news of Jesus Christ to those we meet.
God the Father told the three disciples to “listen to Him”. He tells us the same. WE haven’t gone up a mountain. We didn’t need to. God speaks to us everyday in the here and now, in the ordinary circumstances of our lives. But Jesus shows us by his transfiguration that nothing is ordinary. His light is shining within every person we meet and every situation we encounter. Yes, maybe we won’t shine. But our faith does make a difference to us. God has given us a message, to listen to His Son. And what does His Son tell us: to go out and make disciples in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are all called to do this. You can’t leave it to the priests; there’s not enough of us. No, all of us are called to spread the good news of Christ. You don’t have to preach, you just have to give good example. Above all you are called to love others; show them they are loved and lovable.
“Difficult” you might say? “Impossible?” Remember: nothing is impossible for God.