February 26 2017 CCC TRANSFIGURATION SUNDAY Mt 17 :1-9
Have you ever had a mountain top experience that really changed you?
Or maybe have you ever gone through a challenging period, a hard time, that changed you dramatically?
Today, that is what we are looking at, Transfiguration Sunday. We are going to look at Jesus’ transfiguration as an example of our own transfigurations.
First let’s look at the biblical text. We need to be reminded of what came before so we can understand what today’s text is all about.
At the end of chapter 16, Jesus has just told his disciples that he was heading to Jerusalem and there, things were going to go very badly, he would be arrested, tortured, killed and then rise again. This did not suit Peter who objected to this type of pessimistic talk. Jesus tells him to get behind him, and calls him Satan. Jesus went on to tell his disciples that they too must be prepared to carry their cross and to follow him.
Now in today’s text, Jesus has taken Peter, James & John up the mountain to, no doubt, pray. There, Jesus is transfigured. His face beamed, his clothes became dazzling white. Talking to him were Moses and Elijah, two important individuals in the Hebrew Scriptures, Moses the giver of the Law, and Elijah representing the prophetic voice.
Peter, who just recently had gotten put in his place, asks if they should build three shelters. Let’s have this last a bit longer. A bright cloud covers them and says ‘This is my beloved son, with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.’
That event becomes for Jesus, one clear vindication of his vision and plan that had been spelt out in the previous chapter. For Jesus, this vindication would no doubt guide him and strengthen him for the rest of his ministry.
I want us to stop and now and look at our own stories. I asked you at the beginning of my message whether you had experienced a transfiguration moment or period in your lives. We can think of mountain top experiences that can have a life changing impact on us. They can be clearly religious, moments where we sense God’s presence and love, conversion experiences. They can be less obviously spiritual, like the birth of a child, both mother and father can be profoundly transfigured.
What I want to focus on this morning though, are the difficult periods that transformed/transfigured us. It can be the death of a loved one, of one’s financial security, or of a dream. Getting through those periods, we are transfigured. We have discovered things about ourselves and have grown stronger.
They can also come through goals we have set for ourselves that once achieved we know we have been transfigured. These can be academic studies, as well as physical goals, climbing a mountain, a triathlon, you name it. I just read the autobiography of Ed Stafford, an Englishman, who set out to walk from the source of the Amazon river its whole length. He did it in 859 days. He was changed, he was transfigured.
Those moments, periods in our lives are important for us to recognize because they become signs of how God was and is working in our lives. Today’s gospel story reminds us that we too have lived through moments of profound change, where we have been transformed/transfigured & the gospel calls us to remember them.
Now another point that I think is important to ask ourselves is, were there people who played an important role in your life during those transfiguration moments? Jesus had Moses and Elijah to affirm him, to encourage him. Did you have individuals who played a key role in your transfiguration?
Ed Stafford had a guide, Cho Rivera, who encouraged him and supported him. In my own life, I can think of various people at key moments who were there for me & helped me in my transformation/transfiguration. Seldom in life do we make it alone. It is good to remember who did God send in your life at key times that helped you get through and find yourself transfigured. Who were they? Have you ever thanked them?
I was given a beautiful gift a month ago, when a friend sent me his 14-year-old son’s poem, written for a school project, about a time that was particularly challenging for him. He chose to write about when he moved with his parents & baby brother from France to Montreal. His family were my neighbours. I welcomed them and became a surrogate grandfather. In his poem, he refers to a neighbour who helped him so much, and I had no idea. In this teenager’s recognition, I received a beautiful gift.
Today’s gospel story reminds us that we too have lived through moments of profound change, where we were transformed/transfigured & to remember them. It also challenges us to think about the people who walked with us.
Finally, the reason I want us to remember these moments in our lives where we were changed, where we grew, where we were transfigured, and the people who helped us, is because we too are called to tell those stories so people will listen and be encouraged.
Last week, I heard about a couple who chose to tell their story which became known as the IT GETS BETTER project. It was in September 2010 that Dan & Terry decided they needed to respond to the suicides of 2 LGBTQ youth who in despair after much bullying had broken down & committed suicide. Dan and Terry, having gone through the same harassment in high school, had gotten through it and their lives were now good. They decided they needed to tell their stories to give hope so these youths, who had no hope, could believe that it could get better. They chose to tell their stories on YOUTUBE, and invited other people to do the same. Their initial video, six and half years later and has had over 2 million hits, but more importantly it gave birth to a project that is an international movement. Thousands of LGBTQ adults telling their stories on YOUTUBE of how they survived those difficult years in high school and that it gets better. Others from the broader society, including the former president Obama, have posted their messages to LGBTQ youth, telling them that they are special and to hang in. Those stories are so important for young LGBTQ people facing bullying and discrimination or fear of being rejected. They need hope and people are telling their stories, it gets better.
Does it make a difference? Yes! When you are despairing, that life will continue to be a living hell, you need to hear from others who have come through it, that it gets better! I read an interesting news in La Presse + this week. A study in the States has just shown that by 2015, when the US Supreme court legalized across the nation same sex marriages, the percentage of teen suicides had dropped by 7% in States that had already legalized same sex marriages. Legalization of same sex marriages was telling young LGBTQ people that it was getting better, they were finding hope.
I have given an illustration drawn from LGBTQ community but the message is the same for whatever circumstance we have gone through that transformed/transfigured us. We need to tell our own stories of having gone through difficult times, of having been transformed, transfigured. Whether it is through the loss of a loved, dealing with divorce, depression, alcoholism, health crisis, whatever life has given you and that you have come through or are coming through, transformed, transfigured, name it for what it is, your transfiguration and share so others can have hope.
My sisters and brothers on this journey of life, name the moments or periods where you have been transformed/transfigured, and celebrate them.
Remember the people who were with you.
Tell your stories so others will have hope.
Finally, if you do not feel you have yet been transformed/transfigured.
If you feel, you are still in the mess, listen to the stories of those around you to gain hope and trust, because God is not finished yet with you and you will get you through it.