by Father John Leising, WNY region chaplain and Associate, Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities
Lenten Scriptures can be interesting and challenging.
As our Lenten journey continues, we are reminded that out of darkness and confusion, hope can emerge.
Consider the Reading from Genesis (Genesis 12.1-4) – “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of earth shall be blessed.”
This was a confusing call to migrate to another land, but also a source of hope for Abram. Psalm 33 offers a good response that could easily fit on the lips of Abram: “Lord God, we have put our hope in you.”
Then there is the Second Pastoral Letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 1.8-10) – Christ has “destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light”. Those are certainly words filled with hope for us!
Finally, we have the Gospel (Matthew 17.1-9) – the momentary transfiguration of Jesus. “Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.”
We hear the conversation between Jesus and Peter – Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I[a] will make three dwellings[b]here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved;[c] with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”
The situation has obviously confused Peter, and yet the experience has to also be a sign of hope for him, especially with the comforting words of Jesus: “do not be afraid”.
Jesus and his disciples had to come down from their mountain experience. The journey was to continue on to Jerusalem. Gethsemane and Golgotha were ahead, but always with the hope-filled memory of that moment of transfiguration.
What does this mean for us?
Don’t we often move from darkness and confusion toward hope?
I remember a whale watching experience I had out of Bar Harbor, Maine years ago. It was a miserable experience – thick fog, rough waters that promoted seasickness, and no whales!
But on the way back, we suddenly emerged from the fog into the bright sunlight – out of darkness and confusion into the light of hope.
And so we can keep listening and talking, we carry on.
We are not alone – he has gone before us.
Once again, we are so much like Peter. We can imagine his grumbling about climbing the mountain. We can sense the confusion in his words. But he DOES experience that moment of the transfiguration of Jesus; and, in the end, the fog lifts for him; the comforting words of Jesus finally made sense to him: “do not be afraid”.
As our Lenten journey continues, Jesus speaks to us in the same way.
“Do not be afraid.”
The darkness of doubt and the fog of confusion will lift, and the light of hope will shine through.