Some evenings ago I was awaiting the start of one of my very few favourite television programmes. An advertisement urging me to purchase a rather swanky car was being screened....
This week we need to see the basic connection between the
OLD TESTAMENT READING [GENESIS 12: 1 – 4a], THE PSALM [33 or 32] and our GOSPEL EXTRACT [MATTHEW 17: 1 – 9].
The connection is simple – going into unchartered territory, waiting for the Lord to reveal something unknown to us and then, even if taken by surprise, to be unafraid of what we come to know and understand.
If we are genuine in the attitude adopted last week that we seek a steadfast and willing spirit so that we may experience the joy of our salvation then we must go where the Lord leads us. Then we must be prepared, without fear or hesitation, to
WAIT FOR DEVELOPMENTS.
Genesis tells us: “go from your country … your kindred … your father’s house to the land that I will show you … so Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” Abraham did not know where he was going or where he would arrive at. He had to leave behind all the basic securities which surrounded him. It was unchartered territory. Will this Lenten season be unchartered territory or have I already confined and limited myself to the known, to the same rather tired and predictable routine? Am I prepared to leave the ‘trusted’ Lenten routine and discover “the land that I will show you?” Do I really want to discover something special in order to achieve a deeper joy in my salvation?
Perhaps, however, what makes us hesitant is our fear or apprehension of placing ourselves in a situation where a personal experience of a real encounter with the Lord becomes a possibility? This is the reason why in today’s Gospel Jesus instructs the three disciples to “tell no one the vision, until the Son of man is raised from the dead.” The Lord wants each person, every individual disciple, to arrive at a stage when they are able to make a personal decision about, of and
FOR him. You must surely remember the question Jesus posed of the disciples when he asked: “who do you say I am?” (see Matthew 16:15) It is noteworthy to realise that in Matthew’s version of the Good News this particular question was asked a short while before this Sunday’s extract. In addition a few verses later Jesus tells the same disciples that“whoever cares for his own safety is lost; but if a man will let himself be lost for my sake, he will find his true self.” (16: 25) Then, and only then, does Matthew record the facts of today’s Gospel. This Lenten season, do I need to stop caring for my own safety?
In emphasising the need for personal experiences of the Lord it must be emphasised that the furthest thing from my mind is those ‘experiences’ which are too often emphasised by an exaggerated ‘pentecostalism’ – such a being ‘slain in the Spirit’ or suddenly bursting into speaking in tongues. The experience of the three disciples who witnessed the Lord’s transfiguration was intended to be a source of personal and ongoing commitment to the permanent living of a Gospel faith centred and focussed on the
PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST.
Why did Jesus take the three disciples up the mountain? I believe he was offering them an opportunity of a personal experience. The season of Lent offers us such an opportunity. Today’s Gospel
records that in the face of their experience the Lord “touched them, saying, ‘rise, and have no fear’.”Tell no one until the Son of man is raised from the dead! Will my Lenten experience enable me, after Easter Sunday, to tell others not of the experience itself but of a realistic human living of faith? The experience has no value for anyone else. The results of any experience are what must become known.
In a strange way my going down into Lent must also be ‘a going up the mountain’ with the Lord. Unless I am prepared to enter Lent in ‘seeking mode’, all possibilities of lasting results will be stillborn. However, my going-down-going-up
must not be fearful. Also, it must not be experience seeking. The Lord will provide the experience. It will not be of my own making or of my own hopeful expectation. “The disciples fell on their faces … and when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. I MUST BE PREPARED TO WAIT FOR THE LORD TO PROVIDE – in his own way and time the experience he wishes me to enjoy. Today’s Psalm reminds us: “our soul is waiting for the Lord. He is our help and our shield.” He is the help, not the experience.
In all of this Saint Paul provides some closing thoughts in
TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [2 TIMOTHY 1: 8b – 10]. There we are reminded of a calling “not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose.” Indeed, in Lent we need to be reminded of “the power of God who saved us and called us with a holy calling.”