Do Not Be Afraid
I’ve been to the Mountain of the Transfiguration. There is a beautiful church there and two small chapels representing the three tents Peter wanted to build, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. The view from this mountain is awesome.
Jesus took Peter, James and John, his favorite friends up this mountain to give them a glimpse of his glory and his closeness to the Father. They saw him transfigured, his whole being transformed and heard the Father’s proclamation, this is my beloved son, listen to him.’ The presence of Moses and Elijah is to let us know that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. What an experience this must have been for Peter, James and John.
Later on Jesus brought these same three friends with him into the garden of Gethsemane. In that dark place they heard Jesus beg for his life, ‘Father if it is possible let this chalice pass me by, yet not my will but your will be done.’ There they watched Jesus sweat blood as he prayed for the strength to face his future. No one said, ‘Lord it is good for us to be here’ in Gethsemane. To block out all this tension they slept and Jesus chided them for their failure to be with him and support him.
There can be times in our lives as we struggle to live our lives as followers of Jesus we may experience the Jesus of the mountain. Experiencing the deep love of spouses and family and close friends we may be blessed with an awareness of God’s closeness to us and God’s love for us. In the sacrament of reconciliation we know, in the depth of our being, our sins are forgiven and sense God’s loving embrace. When we become aware of the beauty of God’s good creation we catch our breath at the wonder of it all.
But we know too that in reality our lives are lived mostly in our personal gardens of Gethsemane with the struggling, suffering Christ. We find it hard to say, ‘Lord it is good for us to be here.’
But this we must know; it is the Jesus of Gethsemane who walks with us when we find ourselves in the dark frightening times of our lives; when our relationships sour and fall apart and we feel betrayed by those we love, when we are told tests are positive or that the treatments we endured did not work, when we no longer have the mobility to go where we want, when our eyesight or our hearing fails. It is Jesus of Gethsemane who sustains us when we struggle with our faults and failures and live with the disappointing reality that the good we would do we do not and the evil that we would not do, that we do. It is the Jesus of Gethsemane who stays with us as we try to spend some time in prayer and often find that time so long. It is the Jesus of Nazareth who stays with us when our prayer life seems empty and God seems so distant.
It is Jesus of Gethsemane who is with us as we face our sense of shame and failure when we surrender ourselves to our addictions and compulsions. It is the Jesus of Gethsemane who is with us as we find ourselves out of work and unable to support our family. It is the Jesus of Gethsemane who tells us, do not be afraid just as the transfigured Jesus told Peter, James and John ‘do not be afraid’ because in all the circumstances of our lives Jesus is with us. Jesus walks with us, strengthens us, lifts us up when we fall and most all loves us. The glory of the Transfiguration is a prelude to the glory of the Risen Lord showing us his wounds, blazing pledges of his love for us with his message that when all is said and done life conquers death, love conquers hate, justice conquers injustice, and freedom conquers oppression. Do not be afraid.