GEN 9: 8-15 I PETER 3: 18-22, MARK 1: 12-15
Dr. Peggy Hartshorn, president of Heartbeat International, tells a dramatic story about a woman who glimpsed the mystery of her unborn child. The young woman was seeking an abortion. She simply could not handle having a baby at this time. But she agreed to an ultrasound. When the baby appeared on the screen, the woman was amazed to see the perfectly formed body, the tiny legs and arms moving inside her womb. But the woman kept saying, “No, no, I have to have an abortion.” Dr. Hartshorn felt sad. She knew that seventy-five percent of women who see an ultrasound decide to keep their baby – but that a quarter, nevertheless, still have the abortion. It seemed like this woman would be in that twenty-five percent. All of sudden, Dr. Hartshorn’s assistant said, “Reach out and take your baby’s hand.” Dr. Hartshorn thought, “Oh, gosh, why is she saying that?” But the woman raised her hand and touched the monitor. As if by some divine cue, the baby stretched out his arm to the exact place of his mom’s hand. On the screen his tiny fingers met hers. She kept her baby.
There is a mystery inside each one of us – the mystery of the image of God. Today’s Gospel tells us how three of the apostles saw a glimpse, a tiny glimpse, of who Jesus was. That would transform them and sustain them through some dark moments following Jesus’ arrest. In Jesus’ transfiguration the disciples saw something that they had never seen before. They saw a new dimension to Jesus, a new level of his glory and his power. They had walked with him; they had heard his teaching; they had eaten with him; but on the Mountain of Transfiguration they saw a truth that was greater than anything they had seen before.
On the mountain Peter, James and John saw that there was more to Jesus than met the eye. During the transfiguration they got a glimpse of the future glory of Jesus’ resurrection.
Like them we too get glimpses of the presence of God in our lives. We get glimpses of God in the love we receive from other people. We get glimpses of God when badly needed help suddenly comes to us from out of nowhere. We get glimpses of God when we look back over our lives and what we couldn’t understand in the past makes sense now. We see glimpses of God when we see someone making a sacrifice to help somebody else. We see glimpses of God in the beauty of a fine day, a nice beach or a beautiful sunrise or sunset. We see glimpses of God when a passage from the Bible or a homily strikes a cord in our hearts. We get a glimpse of God when we spend time in prayer and experience the loving presence of God in our lives. We get more than just a glimpse of God when we receive the body of Jesus in Holy Communion. The Transfiguration coming early in Lent encourages us to continue our Lenten penances because it reminds us of the glory of Jesus risen from the dead.
The disciples who experienced Jesus’ transfiguration had to come down the mountain and return to normality but they remembered the transfiguration. Like them we live in normality but we believe and know that God has destined great things for us. We say that the transfiguration prepared the disciples for the scandal of the cross. Celebrating Jesus’ Transfiguration early in Lent reminds us of what comes after the cross because it reminds us of the glory of Jesus risen from the dead. In our worst moments of pain may we not think negatively but remember the encouragement we receive in Sacred Scripture and that God has destined the glory of the transfiguration for each of us in the next life.
St Francis de Sales has a wonderful image that illustrates how we should trust in this God who has done so much to gain our trust.
He tells us to think of the little children who go on a walk with their dad. With one hand they hold fast to their father, and with the other hand they pick berries, or play with a stick, or throw stones in the pond. If we handle the goods, affairs, and problems of this world with one hand, we must always hold fast with the other to our heavenly Father’s hand. We should look up at him from time to time to see if we are pleasing him. We do this through prayer and the sacraments, and through obeying his commandments and the teachings of his Church. Above all, we should never let go of his hand by direct disobedience to his will or laziness in our spiritual lives. It’s foolish to think that with two hands we can gather more berries – we will only get lost, injured, or kidnapped.