Glory in the Midst of Bad News

There is someone in Tampa that clearly enjoys the Tampa Bay Times. Most mornings – recently at least – they help themselves to the copy intended for the friary. At the crack of dawn, one of the friars makes the daily pilgrimage to the Florida Ave. curb to retrieve the newspaper. Sometimes we are rewarded for our journey; some days not. But even the days when the paper has been absconded, perhaps that too has its own rewards. When our newspaper takes flight it also carries away the bad news with it. I know, I know – it’s not all bad news, but… At least for a while we get a respite from the next report of death, doom, despair, flood, fire, famine, pestilence, poverty, and plague.

Today’s gospel reading is the account of the Transfiguration. In all three synoptic gospels, the Transfiguration occurs several days after Jesus’ foretelling of his death and resurrection (Mt 16:24-28; Lk 9:23-27; Mk 8:31-38). Jesus tells his disciples of his coming crucifixion and glorification: “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must . . . be killed, and after three days rise again.” (9:31) Peter apparently stopped listening after he heard the words “be killed.”  Too much bad news. John the Baptist has been killed by Herod and now Jesus will fall prey to the same coarse hand of imperial power.  And this is following upon Jesus’ earlier warnings that following him will involve sacrifice and perhaps even death. Too much bad news.  Perchance the apostles are thinking “it’s time to abandon ship, hunker-down, and wait it out until God comes in glory to clean up this mess.”

That’s one strategy.  But the problem with such a strategy is that, sure, while following Jesus often involves sacrifice and perhaps even death, it will also result in glory. But if you quit at the foot of the mountain, you never make the top; you never see the glory.

The Transfiguration was a moment when the glory of Christ was revealed to the Apostles to help carry them through the coming days: the Passion of the Christ and His crucifixion. To help carry them through the days in the Upper Room, tempted to abandon Jesus, and yet remembering what they had already seen. To sustain them until the glory of the Resurrected Jesus stood before them saying, “Peace.”

In our day and age, even as we journey through Lent, we are Resurrection people. Even in the midst of our present sufferings, we are people called to search for the presence and glory of Christ in our everyday. The Transfiguration reminds us that the Incarnated God is here and now and is eager to be noticed in our world and in our lives. Even better, the good news is that we don’t need to climb a sacred mountain to be dazzled in light. As Thomas Merton reminds us, “The gate to paradise is everywhere.”  All that is required is for us to open our eyes and our hearts and our lives – and be transfigured, revealing Christ to others.  Happy Lent.

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