A Sign Along the Way
by Rev. Stanley J. Krempa
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Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and do not be afraid." And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, "Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
The words of God to Abram at the beginning of today’s reading from Genesis, “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk … to a land that I will show You” take us to the heart of Lent. It is easy for us to drift from the Lord, to wander from the path the Lord has given us, even to get lost along the way. Lent calls on us to halt the drift, begin again and to go to the place God has for us.
What is sometimes called the “journey of faith” can become tedious and difficult. It is like going on a long trip to a place that we have been planning to visit for a long time. As we drive along, enthusiasm begins to wane as we start to wonder whether we should have ever started the trip.
Then, suddenly, we see a sign or billboard that advertises in grand and glorious color the place to which we are going and we feel the old enthusiasm and energy return.
The Transfiguration, recorded in today’s Gospel, was something like that. Jesus had spoken about his coming death and resurrection. What all that meant was lost on the Apostles. Then, Peter, James and John are given this mountaintop experience. Suddenly, they see the Lord exuding light from within, “unborrowed light” as the magnificent and potent phrase from the familiar hymn “Tis Good Lord to Be Here” describes it. They see Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus. Moses and Elijah represent the Old Testament Law and the Prophets that Jesus fulfills. Then, as suddenly as it came, it is over.
The memory of that moment of glory, however, would sustain them for the rest of their discipleship. They received a glimpse of the glory that would someday be theirs if they continue the journey with Christ. It was a powerful sign along the way.
We are all given occasional mountaintop experiences. They do not come very often. They cannot be produced by us. They are not like an “on demand” cable movie that we can call up whenever we wish. They are a grace — a flash of insight, a grace from God, an experience of what can be through the charity of another, the care of another after we receive a difficult diagnosis, the homily that speaks a message to us that we really need to hear. These are all wonderful gifts that touch us and give us renewed vigor as we journey with Christ. They are moments given us to remember. Mountains are majestic but few people can live there. Most of us live our lives on the plain with the daily grind of chores and routine. These occasional mountaintop experiences help us realize that the Lord who is with us on the mountaintop is, again in the words of the hymn, also with us on the plain.
If we take the call of Lent seriously and leave the place where we are and begin to travel spiritually to the place God has for us, we will be given signs along the way to encourage us. But they are only signs that point the way to a glory that will never end.
We do not have to be content with reading about other people’s mountaintop experiences. We will have our own. When we are given a sign, a mountaintop experience from the Lord, we should cherish it, remember it, reflect on it and thank the Lord for it. It is a promise of what will be for eternity.
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