Maryknoll Father Rick Bauer in Kenya reflects on the the temptation to stay where we feel safe when we hear Jesus' call to follow him.
It was “to pray” that Jesus led the three disciples up a mountain in the Gospel reading for this Sunday. So, they hiked up the mountain, reached the summit, and Jesus began his time of prayer just as the three disciples had anticipated. But in the middle of that prayer, everything changed.
Jesus’ face “changed in appearance” and his clothing “became dazzling white” – “dazzling white” is the color that belongs to the End Days. It is the color of objects and animals in the Book of Revelations.
The disciples were given a glimpse of how the Lord will appear when he comes at the end of time.
Then, two figures appeared and spoke with Jesus—Moses and Elijah. They brought all of Scripture, the Law and the Prophets, to this moment. They spoke with Jesus about his exodus, what he was to do in Jerusalem.
After that, Luke directs our attention away from Jesus and Moses and Elijah and toward the three who followed Jesus up the mountain. They have been “overcome by sleep.” At first this seems an odd response to this experience. Yet one defense mechanism to overwhelming events is to fall asleep: ignore it, deny it. It could be that they fell asleep as a way to deal with profound changes and opportunities. The strategy doesn’t work, of course. Sooner or later, we all have to wake up.
Peter, James and John did wake up, and Peter blurted out his famous and awkward idea: “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents.” Let’s stay here, freeze the moment, never leave, never move, never grow.
Notice the difference between what the disciples talked about—the three dwellings (staying)—and what Jesus spoke of—his exodus (moving). This is our choice—a deadly stop, trying to hold on to a past glory, or a Spirit-led journey with the Lord.
Will you stay with Peter and his three tents, or will you dare to go with the Lord in his exodus?
Then a voice announced, “This is my chosen Son,” and added, “Listen to him.” This is the same voice that spoke about the Beloved Son as at Jesus’ baptism. With the additional command, “Listen to him,” it seems odd though, since we have not heard directly from Jesus through all of the occurrences on this mountain. It had been a vision, and what sights we had seen! But “Listen to him”?
Now, think back, what did the Lord say just before leading the three up on this mountain? it was this prophecy: The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
When we are told to listen to Jesus, this is what we hear.
In my ministry and mission with palliative care, I am privileged to witness the Paschal mystery lived out in the lives of Kenyans with life-limiting illnesses. Sometimes, I want to stay in the tent, on the mountain, away from the painful reality of death and dying. Yet this gospel reminds me that moments of blessing always lead us toward Jerusalem and Ultimate Glory.
So “Listen to him.”
Listen to our Lord speak of the exodus he is about to accomplish in Jerusalem for us. Listen to him as he teaches us how to live out life, baptized into the Paschal mystery that brings us through death, to Life. Listen to him and follow him. Don’t be tempted to stay on the mountain.