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REFLECTIONS

THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER

 
In this Sunday’s Gospel the city of Jerusalem is important and the journey motif is also important.

We must remember that Luke began his Gospel in Jerusalem, in the Temple.  We have the story of Zacharias.  Jesus for the major part of this Gospel is “on the way,” on a journey to Jerusalem.  “I must go up to Jerusalem.”

Luke also has Jesus born on a journey.  Mary and Joseph must journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  Jesus’ entire life is a journey.  He is born on a journey, for a journey.

The Emmaus story is a journey within the Jesus Journey.

The two disciples are not going “up to Jerusalem” as Jesus did.  They are going away from Jerusalem.  There are two disciples, one of whom is named Cleopas.  Because of the noted examples of women in Luke’s Gospel, some have speculated that the other disciple was a woman, maybe the spouse of Cleopas.

At the beginning of the journey their eyes are closed.  The death of Jesus had been for them a terrible trauma.  Jesus is simply a stranger.  But he “went with them.”  He enters their emptiness, their meaninglessness, their feeling of divine abandonment.
 
Their conversation reflects the various “ups” and “downs” of their recent life.  UP, “Jesus of Nazareth a prophet mighty in word and deed before God and man.” 

DOWN, “our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him.”
 
UP,  “But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel (the Spanish translation says they were hoping he was “the liberator”)

DOWN, “some women from our group, (were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body.”
 
UP, “they reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive.”

DOWN, “Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.”

 

 As the Journey progresses Jesus explains things to them and teaches them.  They come to a point and welcome the stranger to stay with them.  They recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread (UP) but then he vanishes (DOWN).
 
Jesus wishes to walk not just with these two disciples but also with us as his disciples.  He enters into our experiences of loss, disillusionment, discouragement.  But he also wishes to be our companion in our experiences of joy and happiness and celebration.
 
As people who know the companionship of Jesus we are to be his presence to one another.  As Jesus entered into the experiences of the two disciples, so we must enter into the experiences of one another with the qualities of Jesus.  Pope John Paul II conveyed the attitude of Jesus, not just in his words, “John Paul II loves you,” but also in his manner of receiving children and dignitaries. Pope Francis (with his smiling demeanor) captures the spirit of encounter very powerfully.
 
Are there any sadder words than, “We had hoped.” Disillusionment, disappointment, sadness that come from hopes shattered.  These disciples experienced this.  We at times experience this in our lives.
 
Yet what words of joy.  “Did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke to us on the way?”  They only later realize that something was happening all along.  Hopefully we all have had this kind of experience at some time and place in our lives, when our hearts burned within us, a moment that we look back on with great tenderness and joy.
 
Jesus is our companion on the journey.  Many times our eyes are closed.  We must recognize the face of Jesus in the strangers we meet along the way.  Can I invite the stranger to stay?  There are many kinds of strangers.  People in the same family can be or become strangers to one another.  If we are honest we have to admit that even our friends are part strangers to us.  We are even part strangers to ourselves. Immigrants and refugees are a special kind of stranger that we are called to welcome.
 

These disciples were changed and went in a different direction; they returned to Jerusalem.  We too at times must be changed and go in a different direction.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
        
As part of my preparation for Easter this year I studied Raymond Brown's chapter in the book THE VIRGINAL CONCEPTION & BODILY RESURRECTION OF JESUS. On page 106 in a footnote I read this:

"I suggest that this second appearance may be the evangelists' dramatization in which Thomas serves to personify an attitude.  The other Gospels mention fright or disbelief when Jesus appears, but John transferred this doubt to a separate episode and personified it in Thomas.  Such free dramatization is characteristic of the Fourth Gospel."  This interpretation gives further witness to "
Another spiritual tradition about Thomas the Twin is that you and I are the Twin."  To be sure "fright" and "disbelief" are part of our life experience. 
 
Thomas the Twin dominates today’s Gospel.  In popular use, hardly anyone named Thomas has not been dubbed, “doubting Thomas” at some time in his life.  But it is interesting that not many people have asked the question, “who is the other twin?”

Speculation on this subject is interesting.  Some have hazarded that Judas was his twin.  Since Judas betrayed Jesus and went and hanged himself (evidently in despair), his relation to Thomas would have been suppressed.  Others have proposed that Mary Magdalene is his twin.  Mary as the first proclaimer of the Resurrection has her own difficulties in getting through to the other Apostles.  Some have even hazarded that Jesus is Thomas’ twin.  Now to Catholics that is unthinkable, but not to those who take the references to the brothers and sisters of Jesus as literal.

It would seem that Thomas reaction to the death of Jesus is to go off by himself alone to deal with this loss.  But from the other information that we have from the Gospels about Thomas it would also seem that he was re-examining how he could have missed in his judgement about Jesus.  Wasn’t Jesus to be the Messiah, the restorer of the Kingdom of Israel?  How could this Jesus end up killed on a cross?  Thomas probably thought that Jesus would tie all his searching and synthesizing together.  Now Jesus has died ignominiously on a cross.  It seems he needed time apart to process his thoughts, to regroup.  If Thomas was an introvert he would process things alone on his inside before talking with others.  His refined observation skills had failed him.  He was re-examining past events.  He was dealing with the darkness of doubt.

Some years back in a dialogue homily I posed the question:  “Why do you think Thomas was not with the other disciples?”  A little boy of about 12, put up his hand, “because he couldn’t get off work.”  It does make you think.

When Thomas does rejoin the group (a week later) he is presented with the information that they have seen the Lord.  He thinks that this must be some kind of delusional thinking.  He must have his own personal proof, put his finger in the wounds of his hand and his hand into Jesus’ side.  I think that it must have been a tense week: the ten holding, “we have seen the Lord,” in one part of the room and in another part Thomas “I don’t believe.”

Jesus comes to Thomas.  Jesus make his approach to Thomas particular to this man.  There is nothing of the “don’t touch me” words directed to Mary Magdalene.  In fact Jesus tells Thomas, just the opposite, come and touch.

Thomas is overwhelmed and bursts forth his own profession of faith, “My Lord and My God.”  This Thomas who was not easily convinced, now was convinced. ( I find myself wondering if he did put his finger in the hand and his hand in Jesus’ side.  I’ve solicited different responses to this question and the answers are quite differing and interesting.  Particularly why people think what they think.)  Surely his faith must have enriched the others.  Thomas was one of those types who gathers lots of information (I personally identify here with Thomas), he was always perceiving and analyzing things, even things that others missed.  Doubting Thomas becomes believing Thomas and inspires the others to greater depth of belief.

Tradition tells us that Thomas was the apostle to India.  Would this not make sense, that he who was the most difficult to convince, once convinced would have the most impulse and stamina and drive to carry the news the farthest?

Another spiritual tradition about Thomas the Twin is that you and I are the Twin. 

Has Jesus come to you in a particular way?  Have you been called to put your personality, your history, your gifts at the service of the Jesus in a particular way?  Is Jesus perhaps speaking to you today, to put some good, which has laid dormant inside you, into action for Jesus?  Can you say with Thomas, “My Lord and My God.”  “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Reflection by: Dave Jackson

 

EASTER SUNDAY

This Easter Sunday, I would like to focus on the experience of three people, Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and Peter. They each have something to teach us about ourselves, Jesus and the Resurrection. We will look at their individual reaction to the death of Jesus, Jesus' individual reaction to each of them, and the individual mission which was entrusted to each. Each of them has a particular darkness: Mary Magdalene, sorrow; Thomas, doubt; Peter, remorse.

MARY MAGDALENE

Her reaction to the death of Jesus: she is preoccupied with getting the spices needed to anoint the body of Jesus. She does observe the Sabbath rest, maybe because of what others would think. She comes to the tomb with her programmed expectations. She is busy responding to her loss by doing something. Her words are repeated three times almost like a lament, "They have taken his body and I don't know where they have laid him." She is so disoriented by this unexpected turn that she doesn't recognize Jesus when he is present to her. She thinks he is the gardener.

Jesus deals with Mary by calling her by name. He leads her out of the darkness of her sorrow. In this calling she receives recognition and again moves into action. She clings to Jesus. He then tells her, "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the father." Sandra Schneider's discussion of this is most enlightening. She says the literal translation would be: "Not me (emphatic) continue to touch but "go to my brothers and sisters." The emphatic placement of the "me" at the beginning of the command and closest to the negative, which thus seems to govern the pronoun "me" rather than the verb "touch," suggests that what Jesus is forbidding is not so much the touching itself but Mary's selection of the object to touch, namely, Jesus who stands before her as an individual. . . . In other words, I would suggest that what Jesus is really doing is redirecting Mary's desire for union with himself from his physical or earthly body (which is any case no longer exists because it is the glorified Lord who stands before her in an appearance which is temporary) to the new locus of his presence in the world, that is, the community of his brothers and sisters, the disciples."

Jesus then missions her with the words, "But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" The writer of the fourth Gospel states: "Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord,' and what he told her." Jesus had progressively led her from the darkness of sorrow to the light of joy. This joy she could now share. Her witness to Jesus would be different because she was different.

THOMAS

Thomas reacts to the death of Jesus by going off by himself alone to deal with his loss. He probably went over his contacts with Jesus to see where he (Thomas) had been wrong. This Jesus whom he thought had the key that would tie all his searching and synthesizing together now had died ignominiously on a Cross. He needed time alone to process his thoughts, to regroup. He was dealing with the darkness of doubt. When he does rejoin the group, he is presented with the information that they have seen the Lord. He thinks that this must be some kind of delusional thinking. He must have his own personal proof, put his finger in the wounds of the hand and his hand into the side.

Jesus comes to Thomas. Jesus particularizes his approach to Thomas. There is nothing of the don't touch words directed to Mary Magdalene. In fact, Jesus tells him just the opposite, come and touch.

Thomas is overwhelmed and bursts forth his own, My Lord and My God. His profession of faith must have enriched the others. Thomas was the one who gathered so much information, he was always perceiving things, even things that others missed. Doubting Thomas became believing Thomas and inspired the others to greater depths of belief. Tradition has Thomas bringing the Gospel as far away as India.

PETER

Peter responds to the death of Jesus by returning to his familiar home and tasks, fishing in Galilee. He was overwhelmed by all that had happened to Jesus and how it had all affected him. He obsessed about his own protests, his taking a sword in the garden, his denials, his flight, his going out and weeping bitterly. It was all too much for him. He was overwhelmed by the darkness of his own powerful emotions. He was in a fog.

So when Jesus comes to them on the shore, Peter doesn't recognize Jesus, but John does. But upon recognition he does the impulsive thing (Peter always seemed to be doing the impulsive thing) and jumps into the water.

Jesus takes Peter by himself and questions him, "Simon, son of John do you love me?" The Greek is important to understand the meaning of these questions and Peter's response.

Jesus' first two questions are with the word AGAPAS. Peter responds, "Yes Lord you know that I love (PHILO) you." Jesus is asking about "self sacrificing love." Peter is responding with the "love of friendship." It would seem that Peter's heart wasn't in it. Maybe he was still dealing with the fact that he had denied Jesus.

A second time Jesus questions him: "Simon son of John do you love (AGAPAS) me." Peter's response was the same (PHILO) a second time. Now he was probably preoccupied with the fact that he had denied knowing Jesus, not once, but three times.

A third time Jesus questions (now Jesus switches to the word PHILEIS) Peter, and this time the emotional Peter comes through. The Gospel writer tells us: "Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, 'Do you love me?' and he said to him, Lord you know everything: you know that I love (PHILO) you." Peter could now hear Jesus' question. Jesus, finding Peter incapable at this moment of AGAPE, settles for PHILEO.

Peter is to feed and shepherd. Now Peter has expressed his "friendship love" for Jesus. Jesus goes on to tell him more. Peter would have to surrender. " . . . when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Peter will eventually lose his life over Jesus--but he will do it unwillingly. Wes Howard-Brook, "The fisherman who has, for better or worse, been in charge of his own destiny throughout the narrative will, in the end, find his fate determined by another. Is this "another" simply the Romans or is it God?" The text leaves it open. In Peter's surrender Jesus could say to Simon son of John, now Peter again, "Follow me."

Jesus uses images, symbols in dealing with Peter, feeder of lambs and sheep, shepherd of sheep, bound for the Lord.

But Peter was preoccupied about the Beloved Disciple that was following: "Lord what about him?" Peter is to incarnate they laying down of life, the Beloved Disciple will model remaining in Jesus' love. The Beloved Disciple apparently was not martyred. The different perspectives of the ultimate ecclesial authority of the martyred Peter and his successors raises the question of what is Jesus' will for the different band of disciples, the Johannine community.

The content of Jesus' words to Peter is: don't worry about him, just do what I want of you. Peter did this.

CONCLUSION

One of the aspects that stands out so clearly in these stories is that the three persons are very different. They are treated very differently by Jesus and they are missioned differently by Jesus. Easter lessons for us would be: we are different people, one from the other, we experience different darkness. Jesus comes to us and treats each of us differently but offers us life and light. He also has a particular expression of the Gospel that he wants you and I to live. Be the Easter life of Jesus for yourself, for others, for the world.

PALM SUNDAY

(The reading of the Passion Narrative because of its length, makes it difficult to preach very long on this Sunday.  The following are not meant as reflections/homilies but perhaps more preparation for our celebration of this Sunday.)
 
Raymond Brown begins his reflection on the Passion Narratives with this general observation: “Every year during Holy Week the liturgy of the Church exposes us to a bit of biblical criticism by appointing two different passion narratives to be read within a short period.” In Cycles A, B, and C we hear the Passion according to Matthew, then Mark, then Luke.  “ . . . while on Good Friday every year we hear the Passion according to John.  ‘Those who have ears to hear’ should notice that the two narratives which are read in a given year do not offer the same picture of the crucifixion of Jesus in either content or outlook.”  He then goes on to consider the importance of that observation.

Roger Karban in NCR March 29, 2014  “We must constantly be aware that each of our four evangelists writes from the perspective of a unique theology. Each looks at and writes about Jesus from an original point of view, often contradicting the theology of those who wrote before or who would write afterward. It's in this context that I frequently remind my Scripture students of the late Avery Dulles' sharply worded aside during St. Louis University's 1969 Bellarmine Lecture. "Had there been a Holy Office at the time the Gospels were written," the well-known theologian said, "we Catholics would have just one Gospel in our Bibles: Mark, because it was the first. But in our history books we'd often find references to three notorious early Christian heretics named Matthew, Luke and John."

 
Personally I have found it very beneficial to read short characterizations of the Gospel writers in general and of their Passion narratives in particular.  In a Catholic Update , “The four faces of Jesus” Virginia Smith, characterizes the four different Gospel accounts of Jesus this way: “Mark’s harried, hurried human Jesus;” “Matthew’s new Moses: Jesus, the teacher;” “Luke’s compassionate, forgiving Jesus;” and “John’s noble, majestic, divine Jesus.”

In one folio of Scripture from Scratch,  Ronald D. Witherup, “The Passion of Jesus” characterizes the four accounts this way: “Spartan Mark,” “Eloquent Matthew,” “Passionate Luke,” and “Majestic John.”  He makes the summary point, “Whether spartan, eloquent, poignant, or majestic they all seek to present faithfully the tradition they have inherited.”  He goes on to say we should avoid the tendency to blend them into one seamless story.  We should ask what we learn anew from each retelling and from each individual evangelist.

MATTHEW heightens the dignity and majestic quality of Jesus throughout his Passion account.

The identity of Jesus is not hidden as in Mark, so the dramatic quality of the unfolding of Jesus' identity is lessened.  The drama of Matthew lies in Jesus' rejection by those he came to save.

Jesus in Matthew's Gospel confronts the Jewish religious authority with a vigorous challenge.  There is a generally negative portrayal of those described as "the Jews".  There are the incidents of "his blood be upon us and our children," the incident of securing a guard from Pilate, the incident of the chief priests offering money and telling soldiers to lie.

These passages and some in John have led to anti-Semitism.  Only at the Second Vatican Council was the description of the Jews as "Christ killers" rejected totally.
 
Matthew wrote in a period of the Church characterized by extreme tension with Judaism.

The Gospel ends not only with the promise as in Mark, but with fulfillment.

Some people are more developed in Matthew: Judas (motive of betrayal, supper, suicide); Pilate (wife's dream, washing of hands, choice of Barabbas or Jesus); Peter ("never deny", "wept bitterly".

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT

This Sunday we hear the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Before considering the story in detail it is important also to consider it in the context and sequence of the Gospel.
 
We note a great contrast here. Prior to this passage we heard about Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a  pharisee in the south city of Jerusalem in  Judea.  He is a male representative of the Jewish religious establishment.   In today’s Gospel we have a unnamed Samaritan woman.  She is a  representative of an enemy people a foreign woman.   She is surprised that Jesus talks with her.  The Disciples too are surprised that Jesus talks with her. 
 
John sets up this story in a dramatic form. 
 
1. WHO:  Divide up into parts:  l) Narrator, 2) Jesus, 3) Samaritan
woman, 4) disciples, 5) town's people. 
 
2. WHERE:  Three stages:
                          l) main stage (Jesus and Woman) (Jesus and Disciples).
                          2) back stage: town (where disciples go, where woman goes).
                          3) middle stage:  townspeople coming to Jesus.
 
 
3. WHAT: (1-4) Introduction: Jesus leaves Judea for Galilee to the
north. En route he passes through Samaria, where at Shechem he rests at
noon next to Jacob's well.
                  (5-26) First dialogue:
                                              a) living water (7-l5) _
                                                (a) (7) Jesus, (9) woman, (l0 Jesus)
                                                (b) (ll-l2) Woman, (l3-l4) Jesus, (l5) woman.
                                              b) worship in Spirit and truth
                                                 (a) (l6) Jesus, (l7) Woman, (l8) Jesus_
                                                 (b) (l9-20) Woman, (2l-24) Jesus, (25) Woman, (26) Jesus.
                  (27-30) Change of scenery: Disciples return, woman left, towns
people on way coming to Jesus.
                  (31-38) Second dialogue:

                               a) Jesus' food
                                   (3l) disciples, (32) Jesus, (33) Disciples.
                               b) the harvest (34-38) Jesus.
 
                  (39-42) Conclusion: belief of the Samaritans 


4. Progression in faith knowledge:  1) (9) Jew, 2) (12) greater than
Jacob? 3) (19) prophet, 4) (29) could this be the Messiah? 5) (42)
Savior of the world. 
 
5. Things to watch for:
                        1) why at noon? isolation.
                        2) stage directions: disciples leave, woman leaves.
                        3) stage prop, left her water jar at well.
                        4) living water, not the water of a cistern or a
well (dead) but water of a running spring or stream.
 
6.WHY:

   Applications:
                  l) This episode presents the Samaritan Woman as the
first missionary. (NJBC p. 956) (also Brown, Community of Beloved
Disciple, Woman in John)
                  2) The Sanaritan woman is offered to us as a person really meeting Jesus: growth in faith, from isolation to faith, to mission.  Jesus a person who knows the heart, is receptive and non-judgmental. 
                  3) Obstacles to meeting persons: prejudices, race,
family, past disagreements, sex of the person, other things that put us
off, sarcasm, abrasive, etc. 
                  4) Emphasis of commentators on immorality of woman,
doesn't occupy Jesus.  Seeing her raising question of place of worship
as a way to deflect conversation from her personal life.  So taken by
Jesus (prophet) that addresses to him the question preoccupying
Samaritans.
                  5) As true missionary, helps people to come to Jesus. 
Her importance decreases as they come into personal contact with Jesus. 
True disciple and missionary.
                  6) The challenges of the Samaritan woman are ours: to
come to recognize who it is that speaks when Jesus speaks, and must ask
Jesus for living waters.
                  7) Jesus never gets a drink from her, but she gets
living water from him.
                  8) Our faith journey like Samaritan woman's includes
questions:  Greater than Jacob?  Could this be the Messiah?
                  9) Emotions of Samaritan woman: suspicion, fear (9),
to almost brassy defiance (ll-l2), to a complex mix of intelligent
curiosity and blank misunderstanding, to half-hearted deviousness (l5),
to total & selfless enthusiasm and commitment.


********************************************************************


Samaritan woman:

1) Go through the various names or titles that the woman uses for Jesus.
2) Go through the various attitudes the woman reveals at the different
moments of the encounter, meeting. 
3) What does it mean for us?
    a) In life we have many different meetings every day, the majority
of them are routine, superficial.  Good morning.  How are you?  I'm
fine, how are you?  I'm fine.  Have a good day.  I hope that all of us
have some more profound meetings in our life.  
    b) The meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan woman is more than a
superficial or routine meeting.  Why?  What accounts for this?
       (a) it isn't as though this meeting is without obstacles.  What
are some of the obstacles here?  Prejudice, racial (that person is an
anglo, that person is a Mexican, Bosnia Herzegovina (Serbs and Muslims),
South Africa (black, white), etc. etc. , sexual (you can't reason with
her she's just a dumb woman/  You can't talk with him, he's so macho.). 
Misunderstandings (a word means one thing to one person and something
different to another).  Getting beyond attitudes that might put us off,
her brassiness, confrontational style, abrasiveness. 
       (b) the difference between a monologue and dialogue.  Here we
have a genuine exchange.  Jesus speaks, woman listens, woman speaks,
Jesus listens.  Genuine exchange.
 
    c) If our human exchanges are superficial, it is probable that our
exchanges with God are superficial. Someone has said that the depth of
our human meetings, encounters with others is the measure of the depth
of our encounter with God. 
       (a) the danger of speaking always when we pray.  We do all the
talking.
       (b) but to be quiet and listen to God is also dangerous, we may
hear that God is calling us to something in our life that needs to be
changed, some conversion that we are being called to.
       (c) the woman is willing to change.
       (d) notice that the woman goes from no faith, to questioning, to
some faith, to committed faith.  Her experience with Jesus leads her
beyond herself to tell other people about Jesus.  She becomes the first
missionary in John's Gospel. 
       (e) the challenges of the Samaritan woman are ours:  come to
recognize who it is that speaks when Jesus speaks and we must ask Jesus
for living water.
       (f) each of us has the ability to be truly present to another
person.  This is very often an unused ability.  When we have met a
person who radiates this ability we become changed in the encounter. The
kiss of peace at Mass can be another chance meeting, carelessly or
routinely dealt with or we can look at the other person and with the
eyes of faith see a person of extraordinary possibilities (una mirada de
fe) and have a different kind of exchange.
       (g) we won't meet someone by a well this week but maybe at a water cooler, or desk or locker, or some other ordinary place.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT

The Image of a journey for our life is often times used. 
In today's first reading, Abraham is called to go on a journey.  His
attentiveness to the call of God is also followed by a number of
promises.  In the Gospel we hear of a stopping off place on the journey
of Jesus, the Mountain of Transfiguration.

For Catholics throughout the world we are on the Lenten Journey. 
Last Sunday we paused with Jesus on the Mt. of Temptation.  Today we
pause at the mountain of Transfiguration.  On the following Sundays of
Lent this year we will pause with Jesus at the Well of the Samaritan
woman, will pause with the man born blind, will pause at the tomb of
Lazarus, will pause to listen again to the Passion story.
 
********************************************
The reflection today will have three points: 1) consider the story of
the transfiguration as told by Matthew; 2) look at the life of Jesus
according to Matthew in view of the five different mountains that are
mentioned; 3) try to apply the meaning of the Transfiguration to our
life. 


1) We have the story of the transfiguration in three Gospels, Mark,
Luke and Matthew.  The sequence these three Gospel writers follow is
similar.  Jesus exercises his ministry in Galilee, he makes his first passion
prediction, (In Matthew and Mark, Peter objects) and then we have the
story of the transfiguration. 

But the story is slightly different in these three Gospels.  Let us
look carefully at the differences in Matthew's account.  First of all
Matthew is the only one of the three to describe this experience
with the word, "vision."  When Matthew describes what happened to Jesus
he says, "His face became as dazzling as the sun."  This specific
description of what happened to Jesus is only in Matthew.  We recall
Exodus 34:29 "As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets
of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his
face had become radiant while he conversed with the Lord.  33 "he put a
veil over his face."  And in the vision of Daniel (10:6) the heavenly
person is described, "his face shone like lightning." 

In Matthew’s account when Peter speaks after the appearance of
Moses and Elijah he refers to Jesus as Lord.  In Mark Peter refers
to Jesus as Rabbi, In Luke as Master.  Peter also portrays a 
submissive attitude before God for Matthew says,
"with your permission . . . "  After the voice speaks from the
cloud Matthew tell us, "When they heard this the disciples fell forward
on the ground, overcome with fear." NABR "they fell prostrate and were
very much afraid."  These emphases of Matthew turn the picture of Jesus
to accent his divine majesty.  When we pray for mercy at the beginning
of Mass we address Jesus as Lord have mercy, we do not pray teacher
or rabbi have mercy. 


But the other addition of Matthew gives another particular emphasis
to the Transfiguration scene as Matthew paints the picture.  Only
Matthew informs us, "Jesus came toward them and laying his hand on them,
said 'Get up! Do not be afraid." NABR "But Jesus came and touched them
saying, 'Rise and do not be afraid.'"  Matthew is careful to portray
this Jesus in his majesty but also in his tender compassion.
 
2)  Our second point is to look at the story of Jesus in Matthew's
Gospel with reference to the different mountains he considers.

(1) As we heard last Sunday the first mountain is the mountain of

temptation.  Jesus is alone with Satan.  He must make a decision.
Satan tempts him to be the Messiah of popular expectations. 
Jesus rejects this temptation and quotes the book of Deuteronomy.  It is
a turning point in Jesus’ life.   When he comes down from this mountain
he moves from the south, Judea, to the North, Galilee the region
near the lake of Galilee and the city of Caparnaum.  He begins his
ministry of teaching, proclaiming, and healing. 

(2) The second Mountain is the Mountain on which Jesus gives the
Sermon on the Mount.  In chapters five to seven we have heard the 
important teachings of Jesus.  When he comes down from this
mountain he also does a number of miracles.  He is either accepted
by people or rejected.  He finally predicts that he must go up to
Jerusalem to suffer and die and rise from the dead.  This is
not the type of Messiah the disciples desire.


(3) This leads to the third mountain, the mountain of
Transfiguration.  Though Peter would like to stay on this mountain Jesus
goes down from the mountain with the disciples.  Following this
experience the miracles of Jesus decrease.  Jesus tries mightily to
convince his disciples of the kind of Messiah he must be, to give his
life for others. 

(4) This leads to the fourth mountain (the mount of Olives followed
by) Mount Calvary.  Here Jesus dies for us.  What he taught in words in
the sermon on the Mount he now teaches in deed.  But the journey does
not end, this time his body is taken down and laid in a tomb.  But death
does not triumph over Jesus.  On the third day he rises from the dead. 
He appears to the apostles.  

(5) This leads to the fifth mountain, the mountain of commissioning. 
The apostles gather and Jesus commissions them to continue his mission
of teaching to the ends of the earth.  They are to baptize and he
promises to be with them till the end of time.
 
3) Lessons or applications for us from this Sunday.  The first lesson is
that for the Christian ashes, the human condition, sin and death are a part of our
life and experience.  But for us the promise of transfiguration,
grace and glory are also to be part of our experience.   What happened
to Jesus can also happen to us.  Transfiguration of Jesus also assures
us that within each of us there are extraordinary possibilities,
potentials for good.  God can also shine through us. 

A psychologist, Abraham Maslow, said that part of the experience of a
well adjusted person is what he called, "peak experiences."  These
experiences frequently involve wonder, awe, feeling of oneness with the
universe, and a loss of self.  As we look at the mountain experiences of
Jesus we can see that, though different, each one was special.  This
Sunday we are called perhaps to reflect on the mountain or peak
experiences in our lives.  Jesus had to come down from the mountain each
time, except for the last time.  Our life too alternates between highs
and lows.  Many times we return to a valley of tears.  But the promise
of Transfiguration is also ours.  This is the reason we have the
penitential season of Lent to be open to the call from God to ever
greater conversion, to a more open heart.

The Transfiguration experience as described by Matthew reminds us
that in Jesus we have a person of divine majesty.  He has the power and
ability to change us and situations in our life.  But we also have a
Jesus of tender compassion.  He wishes to touch each of us and tell us
not to be afraid.

There is nothing magic about Lent or Ashes.  If we do nothing during

Lent we will come to the end of Lent and will experience nothing. Lent
is a time to deepen our understanding of the teachings of Jesus, perhaps
to read each day from the Gospel of Matthew. We cannot call ourselves
Christians if we do not know what are the teachings of Jesus. If we
undertake Lenten practices, the promise is we will experience transformation and transfiguration in us too.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson