Saturday, February 18, 2012

The first duty of love is to listen

You wish to see; listen. Hearing is a step toward Vision. - Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Gospel text (Mk 9,2-13):
Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
"Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
then from the cloud came a voice,
"This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."
Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Then they asked him,
"Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"
He told them, "Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things,
yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man
that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?
But I tell you that Elijah has come
and they did to him whatever they pleased,
as it is written of him."

I have often wondered how Jesus chose Peter, James and John to be witness to the special events of his life here on earth. In addition to witnessing the transfiguration they were also with Jesus during his agony in the garden. Presumably Jesus saw something in these three apostles that somehow set them apart from the other nine. They were privileged to be present at these special events. On this occasion they were able to hear the words of God the Father, and to glimpse something of the divinity of Jesus. Truly this was a very special privilege for Peter, James and John.

The transfiguration is a very mysterious event. It was reserved for these three alone to witness, and they had to keep it a secret until after the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Had they spoken immediately after they came down from the mountain, others might have been unable to understand what the apostles had seen and heard. Only later, when Jesus had completed his instructions and teaching to the apostles, would they have been able to understand what their brethren had witnessed, a very important and mysterious event.

I think the message of this gospel reading for us today is to take the words of God the Father from the Transfiguration as addressed to ourselves. Just as he called the apostles long ago, God is calling us today to listen to the words of Jesus. He is asking us not merely to hear the words of Jesus, but to really and truly listen to them. God wants us to listen very carefully to the words of Jesus that we hear in sacred scripture and in the teachings of the Church. He is calling us to imitate the apostles in our devotion to the following of Jesus.

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