Second Week in Lent
In reflecting on the two Scripture readings we just heard proclaimed -Second Corinthians and Mark - I saw a common thread of opposites :
- the now and the not yet
- Old and New Covenants
- fear and glory
- life and death
- the significant and the ordinary
- suffering and joy
In second Corinthians, Paul compares us - ministers of the Word - to clay pots. We are earthen vessels - made of common, run-of-the-mill clay, fragile, easily broken - yet, entrusted with the Treasure of the Gospel, the Word of God. We, like the apostles, are called forth as those vessels, to "Listen to Jesus" and then proclaim him.
Paul tells us that "We carry in our body the death of Jesus - our daily troubles, hardships, suffering - so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." I believe these words of carrying death and life in our bodies took flesh very vividly in the witness of our recently deceased: Beth Miller, Sr. Mary Kratina, Rose Redmond, Sr. Johnette Putnam, and Sr. Mary Margaret Bunck. These women were not perfect vessels either, but they were purified through their suffering, especially in their final hours of life. Their eyes may have closed in death, but the glory of God shone through them.
The verses in Chapter 9 of Mark's gospel - follows healings of the deaf, the blind, foreigners, and hungry people fed with abundance out of smallness. Immediately preceding the Transfiguration narrative is the first prediction of Christ's passion and the conditions for following Jesus; namely, taking up the cross of self-renunciation and suffering, which leads to eternal glory, then follows the familiar story of the Transfiguration: Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a high mountain where they were alone with Jesus. And then, all of a sudden, the apostles see Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah - the Law Giver and the First Prophet. How were these astonished three supposed to react to this out-of-this-world experience?
But Peter, never lost for words, and at the same time being frightened, says to Jesus: "It is good to be here. Let us build three tents one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." In other words, Peter wanted to prolong this amazing experience. He and the two disciples had witnessed a fleeting glimpse of heavenly beauty and did not want to leave the mountain. Then they heard a voice telling them: "This is my beloved son. Listen to Him."
They had heard a similar message before. The only difference was that at Jesus' baptism, the words were directed to Jesus: "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." Now God was speaking TO the apostles and giving them a mandate: "Listen to him." Then, all of a sudden, Peter, James, and John looked around and saw only Jesus.
I can identify with the disciples. No wonder they were experiencing wonder and confusion trying to keep up with and understand this Jesus - who then adds these words to the already confusing mix - "Don't tell anyone what you just witnessed until the Son of Man has risen from the dead."
They had no clue what "rising from the dead" or "Son of Man" meant. They blindly obeyed Jesus' orders, but still had no idea what their future ministry would entail. Yet, Jesus continued to use these most unlikely instruments, his closest friends, to go forth and proclaim Good News. They carried the death of Jesus until they, too, are now transfigured in glory with him.
Our task remains the same as the apostles: "Listen to Jesus." We spend much of our day and our lives, actually, listening to God speaking to us through his Word, Jesus: in the Liturgy of the Hours, the Eucharist, in lectio - but just as much through our sisters, our staffs, our employees; those we contact through our ministries…in short, everyone we touch every day.
Our daily routines sometimes blind us, and we don't realize that we can have mountain experiences even amid our mundane affairs. Who knows? If we open ourselves to daily surprises and the possibility of awe and of the unexpected, we might even see Moses and Jesus; Mother Evangelista and Mary Kratina; Johnette and Mary Margaret; Beth and Rose - their faces shining in glory among us!
Our monastic life is only a preparation for that moment when we see God's face shining with delight as he welcomes us on his holy mountain. And our response can only be that of Peter: "It is good for us to be HERE!"