Transformed by 'listening to Him'

Al Cariño, OMI
Editor: Mindanao Cross
Reproduced with Permission

2nd Sunday in Lent

All four gospels tell us that Jesus, in obedience to His Father, "set His face" towards Jerusalem where He must suffer greatly, be killed and on the third day be raised (Mt. 16:21). This revelation did not go well with Peter. Thus He vehemently told Jesus, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you."

This might be Peter's way of showing his love and concern for Jesus. But unknown to him, with those words he was reiterating Satan's objective when he tempted Jesus three times — to deviate from His mission. Moreover, this revelation of Jesus was probably the final nail that sealed Peter's doubt about Jesus. For was it not a fact that until only recently vast throngs of people followed Jesus wherever He went? Now, even some of His disciples had abandoned Him and the religious leaders of the Jews had united against Him. So was Jesus for real or was He just one of those false prophets who appeared now and then in Israel?

Jesus knew what was bothering Peter. Thus after six days, He invited him along with the brothers John and James to go up with him on the mountain (Mt. 17:1–9). There He was transfigured before them: "His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light." Not only that, Moses and Elijah appeared conversing with Jesus. Finally, a voice was heard from the cloud saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"

Moses represents the Law while Elijah stands for the Prophets. In the Old Testament God promised to raise someone like Moses and Elijah in the "last days". Thus their appearance with Jesus at the Transfiguration signified that the "last days" had come. This meant that there and then, God spoke no longer through the likes of Moses and Elijah but through Jesus. Thus it was imperative that the three apostles and everyone else must "listen to Him" so that they may be able to live their lives in accordance with His words. This is what to be a disciple, a Christian, means.

But at that time, all this was way beyond Peter. After such an unheard of experience of seeing Jesus in His glory, and with his doubts about Jesus all gone, Peter proposed to build three shelters — one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Then all of them could stay there in bliss for good.

But Jesus ignored Peter's proposal. Instead He asked them to go down the mountain so that He could go on with His journey to Jerusalem to fulfill what His Father willed. He also admonished them to tell no one about what they had seen and heard, until He had been raised from the dead.

Being transfigured before them — seeing Jesus in the glory that would be His after his passion and death — was Jesus' way of preparing them for the trying days ahead. Meanwhile, as the Father told them, they had to "listen to Him."

Peter was with Jesus throughout His entire public ministry. He not only heard all His words but also received private instructions from Him together with the other apostles. Yet, after Jesus was arrested and scourged, and fearing the same for himself, Peter denied Jesus thrice! Why? Because he failed to "listen to Him." Instead, he listened to his fears. But later, on hearing the cock crow, Peter remembered Jesus' words and repented. And from then on, he continued to "listen to Him."

We are like Peter in many ways. We all have our own problems and preoccupations. We are so anxious over many things that we often forget to "listen to Him."

The Transfiguration-event shows us the value of "withdrawing" now and then from our daily routine and "going up to the mountain" to "listen to Him," that is, to pray. As we all know, when we pray, our problems and preoccupations do not necessarily go away. But after prayer, we return to the same world with a difference — with our heart and outlook transformed.

Thus at prayer — constant and persevering prayer — we discover that what matters is to do God's will not ours. At prayer we may be told not just to honestly earn as much as we can for our family but also to devote more time and attention to our growing children so that they will be brought up properly. At prayer we may be told to talk about the positive qualities of others instead of spreading gossips about them thus bringing about peace within ourselves and with one another. At prayer we may be told that what we own are not just for our exclusive use but are to be shared with others in need, etc.

As Christians we will have our own Transfiguration in the end-time. The pre-condition for this is to "listen to Him," that is, to engage in persevering and transforming prayer so that we may already be transformed here and now. Let this be our "special project" during this season of Lent.