Crisis of faith

Al Cariño, OMI
Editor: Mindanao Cross
Reproduced with Permission

Second Sunday of Lent

Once Jesus asked His disciples who people said He was. They were quick to give answers. But when asked who they said He was, except for Peter, all kept quiet. Peter's answer, “You are the Messiah of God.” After this Jesus told them that He would suffer and die in Jerusalem and on the third day be raised to life again. Obviously, this left them puzzled. For how could Jesus be the Messiah and yet suffer and die?

Eight days after this incident Jesus took Peter and the brothers John and James — the leaders of the disciples and the closest to Him — up a mountain to pray (Lk. 9:28-36). Then they saw Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, “of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” The use of the word “exodus” called to mind the Israelites' escape from the slavery of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Jesus' Exodus was His own passage out of this world through His death and His triumph over it for the redemption of God's people. The presence of the two prophets conveyed God's seal of continued approval of His Covenant with His people.

Soon, from the cloud came a voice saying, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” The Father not only recognized Jesus but also recognized Him in love. Is it any wonder that Jesus became radiant and glowed? However, that recognition was linked to what Jesus must do: Son though He was, He must take up the road to Jerusalem. Thus when they came down the mountain, Jesus began to “set His face” towards Jerusalem. It was the recognition in love by the Father that enabled Jesus to make the most difficult decision in His life — to walk the high road to Calvary.

What was Peter's immediate reaction? Overwhelmed by such a wonderful “experience,” all Peter could do was to blurt out, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Hearing this, Jesus must have only smiled and shaken His head. For there was this big task ahead which would result in His passion and death and here was Peter talking about building shelters!

But more than this, the Transfiguration was also significant to the there apostles. They not only heard for themselves God's answer to Jesus' question “Who do people say I am” but it also led them to silence. Why? They must have been resolving their own “crisis of faith.” All the while they believed that the Messiah was going to be the master of the world and His reign would have no end. But earlier Jesus whom Peter identified as the Messiah told them that He was going to Jerusalem to meet His destiny. Now, they heard the Father say Jesus was His Son and admonish them, “Listen to him,” that is, believe Jesus specially when He said that His divinely chosen mission was to suffer, die and rise again for the salvation of all. Confused by these avalanche of revelations, their only recourse was to reflect in silence.

It must be noted that during this entire period, the three were at prayer with Jesus, listening to Him. It was in this listening kind of prayer that Jesus' Transfiguration also became theirs. It led them to accept that their mission was tied up with that of Jesus and perhaps, suffer and die with and for Him, too. It might even have even entered their minds that at some time, they would continue Jesus' mission without His historical presence. This became a reality after His Ascension to His Father and His sending down of His Spirit.

All of us pray, at one time or another. This is specially true when we are confronted with serious problems or confronted with a tragedy, say a serious illness or the death of a loved one. It is in times like these that we pray, that we tell God what we want Him to do for us. Unfortunately, we stop there; we do not listen to what God has to say and enable Him to make us adjust to His thinking and ways. “Pray and go” has often been the only prayer we know and do. No wonder we complain that nothing happens at prayer! And it is in such moments that we begin to go through a “crisis of faith.”

Obviously, there is more to prayer than this. To pray is to make us align our thoughts and plans with those of God, to “listen to Him.” This is what the three apostles did on the mountain which led to their own transfiguration.

Jesus went up the mountain to pray. Praying is like going up a mountain to be alone with God. As being on top of a mountain gives us a panoramic view of everything below and around it, so does prayer open wide vistas for us — God's — and lets us see ourselves and our concerns in that context. Then we see many other possibilities. Then we can choose the best course to take. Viewed thus, prayer allows us to be “transfigured” into God's thoughts and ways — as were the three apostles.