Shared Homily Starter
2 Timothy 1.8-10
Whether we think this story is a religious fantasy or accept that it all actually happened, the important point is that this story presents us with a mystery beyond what science or history can prove. This story attempts to draw us into the mystery of Jesus’ as that mystery was experienced by his followers─ the Jesus community.
This story is not one of proof that Jesus was God; a Jewish community would have rejected this out of hand. Rather, it is a manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus is presented as a transformed human being, the new Moses, who will lead us on the way to wholeness as members of the family of God.
In the Hebrew Bible, Elijah was carried to heaven before he died and Jewish tradition says the same of Moses. Peter’s offer to build three dwellings, while not putting Moses and Elijah on the same level as Jesus, suggests that Peter perceived all three as “heavenly” human beings. In any case, Peter’s statement shows the scene can’t be fully understood without divine help.
Peter’s voice is interrupted by the voice from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ The heavenly voice declared this when Jesus was baptized just at the beginning of his public ministry. Now, following the first prediction of the passion, announced in the previous chapter, the voice from the cloud confirms that Jesus is what he said he is, a suffering Messiah. However, ‘with whom I am well pleased’ has the added meaning this time that God is pleased with Jesus’ acceptance of the suffering to come. “Listen to him” confirms Jesus’ role as Teacher, sent by God. Biblical scholars point out the priority given to word over vision in Jewish tradition. For example, Douglas Hare, writes
Mystical experience of heavenly reality in the form of visual images has its place, but a very healthy emphasis is placed upon God’s will communicated through word. Seeing Jesus transfigured has value as only if it leads the disciples to listen obediently to his divinely authorized teachingi.
We, like the disciples, fear. We fear because we know that to listen to Jesus and do what is asked of us may not be easy. We too may be called to suffer because we chose to follow Christ by obedience to God’s call for love, mercy and justice. Again, like with Peter, James and John, Jesus is with us. The Jesus in us is the Jesus with us. We are to be the comforting touch of Jesus to each other so that we too can get up and not be afraid. But our imitation of Christ does not stop there to stagnate in some super in-group. We are to be each other’s support and encouragement in co-creating a just and peaceful world for everyone and a healthy, life-filled and verdant Earth.
Therefore, Lent should be viewed, not as a time of penitence, but rather as a time of replenishment as we reflect on the life, passion and death of Jesus. Some of our religious upbringing may have led us to think that we are a people stuck in the crucifixion; but we are a resurrection people and are to be secure in the knowledge that the crucifixion was not the last word. The resurrection of Jesus is a reminder that, ultimately, all of creation will be transformed into the Beloved Community that God intended.
What are your thoughts?
i Hare, Douglas R. A. Matthew. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1993. p. 200.