“And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, ‘Tell no one the vision until the Son of man is raised from the dead.’” (Matthew 17:9)
Last Sunday, we reflected on how Jesus defeated the devil during his temptations. We learned that we can fight the lust of the flesh by fasting and feeding on the word of God, the pride of life by constant recourse to prayer, and the lust of the eyes by putting God first, not making a god of material things and almsgiving (giving things away).
Did you face any temptation during the week? Were you successful in shaming the devil? How did you do it? Do you feel a sense of deprivation or suffering since this Lent began? Are you already wondering how long you would have put up with Lent?
In every sense, our Lenten practices are like punishments in the sense that we deprive ourselves of certain comforts and pleasures devoting more time to prayer or other works of mercy. Today, our readings show us that whatever seemingly punishments we have to endure in the course of Lent are ultimately for our good.
Through the Transfiguration, Jesus made Peter, James, and John taste a tiny glimpse of heaven. Jesus opened their eyes to see beyond whatever pain, suffering, or punishment coming their way. Jesus made them see beyond the scandal of the cross, the fact that God will be beaten, spat upon, insulted, flogged like a criminal, and yet not react.
Somehow, the event of the Transfiguration speaks volumes to us in this country, especially during this period. I hear many asking, why did God allow evil people to get their way again? Why did God pay a deaf ear to our prayers?
Dear friends, let us look beyond what is happening right now, let us look beyond the bad news and depressing information flying across social media, let us look at what Jesus is showing us today in the Transfiguration, so that our Faith may once again be strengthened:
*1. To pray is to Be Transfigured*
It is interesting to note that the Transfiguration of Jesus occurred in the course of prayer. Prayer is our gateway to heaven. When we pray, we literally transport ourselves to God’s presence and if God so opens our eyes, we would be surprised at what we would see during prayer. Child of God, this is a time for us to spend long hours in prayers.
We are facing a situation as never before in the history of this nation. Both our potential president and vice-president would be Muslims and perhaps, all major appointments and positions of Government would be headed by or controlled by persons who may not be in support of our faith. This is a time for us to seek the face of God like never before. Who knows, as Jonah said to the people of Nineveh, maybe God is using this situation to warn us Christians?
Let us pray and fast, let us put ashes on our heads, let us turn away from our wicked ways and repent of our sinful habits. Maybe God will have mercy on us and prevent the calamity the evil ones have planned.
*2. Do not Give Up Yet*
While Matthew simply mentions the fact that Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus, Luke gives us an insight into the content of the discussion: “And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:30-31).
If you study the life of everyone God used in the Bible, you would observe a pattern – it usually gets very hot just before the break-through. Even Jesus needed some encouragement. This is the same encouragement our readings today are giving us. The fact that things are so rough right now is a good sign, it shows that God’s plan has been set in motion already. As the saying goes, the darkest part of the night is a few seconds before daybreak.
You may be having questions in your heart. The disciples too were asking questions: “If he says he is God, why should he suffer? Can God suffer?” Jesus knew what they were thinking, so He gave them something they could hold on to.
Are you feeling that God has abandoned you? Remember the times that God intervened in your life in the past. Think of those glorious moments that convinced you beyond doubt that God truly exists, that He answers prayers, and that He cares deeply about you. Never give up
*3. Trials are Part of Life; they come and go*
Look at what St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading: “Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, (2 Timothy 1:8-9). The fact that we are Christians, holy, upright, and prayerful does not make us immune to suffering in this life.
St. Paul is saying to us today: “Never be ashamed of your Christian identity.” This is not the time to start changing your name or your religion for fear of being stigmatized by others. Trials will come and go. They may be delayed, but they would surely pass. Our first reading today presents the story of Abram. He was called by that name because He was childless yet God had promised him a child.
Little did Abram know he would have to wait 25 years for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Child of God, it is only a matter of time. Let us pray like that woman in the parable of Jesus who kept going to the unjust judge demanding justice even when the judge would not listen to her.
The time would come when darkness (corruption) would have no choice but to give way to the light. There may be a lot of hurdles to cross but keep going. God is a shepherd who never abandons the sheep. He would prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies with your cup running over.
*4. Listen to Jesus*
Just as it was in the Baptism of Jesus, in the Transfiguration, a voice is heard from heaven saying: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5).
Child of God, we have been listening to the news, listening to all kinds of gossip on social media, we have been listening to and dancing to all kinds of entertainment. There are some of us whose television sets are never switched off, except when there is no electricity. We sit all day with our remote controls changing channels or scrolling through reels and statuses on social media.
This is a time for us to put off the television, the radio, and the smartphone. This is a time for us to take a pause, to create an atmosphere of silence so that we can listen to Jesus. It is not the case that God no longer speaks in our world; it is just that humans have become too noisy to listen. Listen to Jesus. Pick up your bibles again and start reading.
*Conclusion:* The journey to anything excellent and beautiful is usually marred with a lot of obstacles and pot-holes. Even serving God is not easy. No one, not even Jesus Christ the Son of God was spared suffering, pain, and sorrow. Like gold which has to experience fire, you would face a lot of fires that would remove impurities from you. Don’t give up on God. Don’t think that your prayers are in vain. Things would not always be like this. Don’t worry – after the story comes the glory.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, when the going becomes tough, be with me, toughen me to get going. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: Genesis 12:1-4, Ps. 33:4-5,18-20,22, 2 Timothy 1:8-10, Matthew 17:1-9).*
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu