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Sunday Readings for Mar. 20, 2011 (2LentA)
By Fr. James Gilhooley
A child saw a dust-covered book. He asked what it was. His father replied, "That's God's book - the Bible." The boy replied, "You better return it to God because nobody here reads it." If our Bible is in good shape, we are not
The Transfiguration was among the very few exhilarating moments in the career of Jesus. His was hardly a cake walk. It was one tough existence. We have a nasty habit of confining His horror moments to His last days. That judgment comes from not reading the Gospels.
The Transfiguration is so familiar to all of us that it has lost its original bang. We have to take off our wraparound sun- glasses. The scales of over-exposure must be peeled from our eyes in order to take a fresh look.
Our Leader was finishing an eight month tour of one night stands in the provincial towns of Galilee. He was eating nothing but junk food at greasy spoons. He considered Himself lucky when He got it. He was sweltering in the 100 plus degree heat and freezing at night under the stars. He was not sleeping. He was staying one step ahead of the cops. His audiences were receiving Him coldly.
Shortly before this account opens, the Teacher had told the twelve of His approaching death. They went into a downer. They had thought the glory days were coming. They had visions of twenty year service and retirement as monsignors on pension, clergy discounts, work on their golf swing, etc. And now this announcement. Who needed it?
Then Jesus took them on a three day forced march southward from northern Palestine. He had to wear a no-nonsense face. He feared a mutiny or suspected they would slip away after dark. That they did not reveals the love that already bound the apostles to Him. For them Jesus was Teilhard's smile of God.
Exhausted, they wound up at Mount Tabor situated near Jesus' hometown of Nazareth. The mountain runs up about 1800 feet. It is almost a straight ascent. When I was there, tourist buses could not reach the top. One had to go up in an eight cylinder auto. Imagine the physical condition of Jesus. As a boy said to me, "Jesus was no wimp."
He loved mountain tops. They brought Him closer to His Father.
Christ elected Peter, James, and John to join Him. The other nine, left at the base camp, were happy they had not been drafted. They were looking for a shady tree, a cool breeze, and a stream to do laundry and chill red wine. They needled the three drafted ones with the message, "Tell us about it tomorrow, fellows."
Their clothes sticking to their skin, the four finally got to the top about 4 PM. They were running on empty. The apostles had one thought: sleep. Jesus chose to pray. As Peter climbed into his sleeping bag, he mumbled, "Everyone has his own idea of a good time." In the early AM hours, the mountain top exploded as though hit by a nuclear weapon. The apostles were basket cases. Their Employer, "was transfigured before their eyes." He had removed His disguise. This was no carpenter. This was God. This was His Big Bang.
When Jesus put on a show, it was not low budget. The Big Bang must have been something spectacular. He deserved Oscar, Tony, and Emmy awards for best show on a mountain top ever.
The apostles were witnessing Moses and Elijah passing on the torch to their Leader. The Father was saying to Christ's followers, "You have been brought up to listen to Moses, Elijah, and their peers. Up to this point, they were my advance men. But now it is my Son you will listen to. He is numero uno. Him I appoint as your new Commander in Chief."
Next day Peter, James, and John came down that mountain jumping from rock to rock with the agility of boys. They were on a high. Their Jesus had proved to be a big winner. Their arduous climb in the sauna heat had paid off.
Heaven for them now would be forever spelled h-o-m-e.
We move into the second week of Lent. And, if you are off to a good start, bravo. Like His apostles, the Teacher has much to tell you at the mountain top. If you have yet to begin the climb, you can play catch-up. Jesus will toss you a rope and pull you up.
Reflect on Elizabeth Vanek: "The Transfiguration is not just an indication of Christ's divinity; it also reveals our potential to become divine." We can achieve "deification." Blow the dust off your Bible. Don't allow it to be the least read best seller of all time. Be a Bible reader, says Kenneth Woodward, and not just a Bible owner.