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THE BISHOP'S VOICE: The time for listening

03/15/2019 | Comments

This is my chosen Son; listen to him.

These words, which are taken from this Sunday’s gospel reading, are meant for all of us. 

Each year, on the Second Sunday of Lent, the Church presents for our hearing one of the synoptic evangelist’s account of the Transfiguration of the Lord. This year we hear St. Luke’s telling of that event.

It is almost impossible to find the words that are adequate to comment on this gospel passage. The details of the event are so highly symbolic that they cast great light on the mystery. The mountain which Jesus climbed with Peter, James and John symbolizes remoteness from ordinary worldly affairs and nearness to God. It was on Mount Sinai that Moses received the Decalogue from God. The prophet Elijah experienced the climax of his career on Mount Carmel. It was to a mountain that Jesus retreated in order to pray to his Father.

The dazzling whiteness of Jesus’ garments reminds us of the brightness of God’s glory. The appearance of Moses and Elijah symbolizes the importance of the law and the prophets.  These two great figures of the Old Testament point to Jesus as the fulfillment of all the hopes and expectations of the people of Israel. The cloud that descends is perhaps the most striking of all the symbols because the cloud announces the very presence of God.

But it is the voice that is heard from the cloud — the voice of God the Father — that expresses the significance of this mysterious revelation. “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” At Jesus’ baptism the same voice came from the heavens, announcing that Jesus was, indeed, the Son of God.  At the Transfiguration, however, God spoke directly to Peter, James and John; and not only to them but to us also.

We, the disciples of Jesus, are the ones to whom these words are addressed today. Listen to him. Like St. Peter, we would rather stay on the mountain with Jesus; but we don’t live on the mountaintop of great spiritual experiences. We live in the valley of our ordinary lives. It is there that we must hear the voice of the beloved Son of God.

And so it was for Jesus, too.  He came down the mountain with his apostles to carry out his mission in the humanity that he took from the Virgin Mary.  How bitterly Jesus was tested as he passed through the dark valley of death. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he cried out from the cross. Jesus invites each of us take up our cross and follow after him, on a road that will lead through the trials of this life to the eternal joys of heaven, all the while listening to his voice.

Listen to him.  Listen to Jesus.  It’s not an easy thing to do, to hear the voice of the Lord in the midst of so much noise and so many distractions. This is what Lent is for. This is why the gospel of the Transfiguration is proclaimed in the first days of Lent. Jesus speaks to us in many ways:  in the Sacred Scriptures, in the teaching of the Church, in prayer, in the promptings of conscience, and even in ordinary circumstances of life, in those we encounter along the way — especially the poor.

Take time to listen to him.  Move away from some of the noise of the world, if only for these 40 days. Renew your prayer life. You will hear Jesus speak to you there. Take up the Scriptures.  We cannot claim to know the voice of God if we are ignorant of his holy word. Look into the faces of the poor among us.  There you will see and hear Jesus.

When we have reached the end of our earthly pilgrimage and entered into the everlasting light of heaven, then we will no longer walk by faith, but by sight.  Now, however, is not the time for seeing.  This is the time for hearing.  We listen for the Father’s voice and heed his command:  “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

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