Each one here can remember a life-changing moment in their lives. An experience or an encounter that changed the way we look at things. It may be a death-defying experience, a sudden fortune turnaround or the moment you met your spouse. We always refer to it because it marks a turning point in our lives. We remember virtually every single detail and can relate the sequence of events quite accurately. Whenever we talk about such an event, we give the impression that we never really wanted it to end as it invokes in us the feeling of the “good old days”. Abram had a life-changing experience. God told him to leave his homeland for a land of blessings and opportunity. The disciples also had such an experience in the Transfiguration of Jesus. Peter was moved to express his desire that they remain there on the mount forever. Like Peter, we too are given the condition for enjoying this lasting experience: listening to the Son of God.
Listening is an essential aspect of the life of every disciple. A good listener hears what is being communicated and tries to grasp the message. The meaning of the words and the way in which they are used, the facial expression and the body language and even the underlying message that the words convey. Listening is different from merely hearing since one who listens allows the message to speak to him rather than try to form an impression of what is about to be said. The disciple not only receives instruction and assimilates them by listening, and he also learns from the words of the Master. Christ makes this clear in John 10:27 “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me”.
Listening also requires that we do something about what we have heard. To be regarded as true disciples, St. James tells us to do what the Lord tells us and not merely listen to him (cf James 1:22).
“You must do what the Word tells you and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves”.
Our listening to Christ calls us to action. More than ever before in the season of Lent, we are called to love our neighbour when we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, and we are challenged to be considerate towards others in the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus. We are called to imitate the good example of other Christians who remind us of Jesus Christ, and we are challenged to do the same by the way we live. Let us listen to Christ as he speaks to us in the words of Scripture and in daily events. Better still, we must pray that the Lord should give us the grace to do his will daily. In case we do not grasp his message entirely, we must seek the advice of our Spiritual Directors, our parents and others who are more experienced in spiritual matters to clear our doubts.
Today we are told to listen to the Son of God in the context of the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration occurred after Jesus told his disciples of his impending suffering and death. It was therefore meant to give them hope in the victory of Christ over death and of the reality of our resurrection from the dead. This event is reflected upon during Lent to give us hope. Hope that the trials which we face daily will come to an end. Hope that our attitude towards these painful experiences would change for the better as we begin to see them as stepping stones that lead to higher levels in the life of grace.
The Transfiguration teaches us that all we face in life are connected. For instance, we can draw a connection between the agony in the Garden and the Transfiguration since there are some similarities between them. Both events occurred in the mountains: Tabor and Olives. There were only three witnesses on these two occasions and most importantly, the two events complement one another by showing the humanity (agony in the Garden) and divinity (Transfiguration) of Jesus Christ. The Transfiguration shows the divine nature of Jesus while the Agony in the Garden makes it clear that he is also human.
These point to the divine and human elements in us as well. We experience the spark of the presence of God in us to the extent that we feel his presence. We marvel at his great power and share in it when we are willing to love and forgive others. We are so filled with joy that we want to share it with others and may even go to extra lengths to make others happy. At such moments in our lives, nothing can stop our feeling of joy; nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. We are on our mount of Transfiguration.
On the other hand, we find ourselves on the Mount of Olives in moments of agony when we feel unloved and find fault with others. The darkness and gloom of sin cloud our vision and we do not see the light of God’s mercy. We feel as if the cup of suffering was specially mixed for us and wonder if it will ever pass. We hear others making it and are inclined to envy them. This is sometimes stretched to the extent that we may begin to doubt the presence of God in our lives. We are in our own agony in the Garden.
Whenever these occur in our lives, let us recall the event of the Transfiguration as a reality in the life of Christ and remember that prayer was his response in the Garden of Gethsemane. When we pray, we dispose ourselves to listen to the Son of God in a most profound manner. He speaks to our hearts and assures us that a positive change is coming our way here on earth and in eternity. Just as the Transfiguration gave the disciples the sign of the glory of Christ which would come after his passion and death, it stands as a stark reminder of what St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading that the Appearing of the Saviour has abolished death and grants us access to life and immortality. As we look forward to the future in hope, we let us take the appropriate action in the present as we realise that our crosses are necessary if we want to share in the glory of Christ’s resurrection.
Let us, therefore, like Abram make use of the numerous opportunities that God gives to us to transform our lives. To do this, we must open our hearts and begin to take the word of God seriously. Let us pray: Lord, we will follow where you lead us. Guide us with your love and strength. Your transforming presence in the Eucharist gives us strength for the journey. Help us to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as He guides us along the way. May God bless every member of the Ascension Family through Christ our Lord. Amen.