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The 'I' Word

By Fr. Robert J. Carr
©Catholic Online 2005

If we look carefully at todayís gospel, the Transfiguration Story, we can see an important dynamic at play. Letís look at the scene. Jesus in a glorified state is meeting with the Moses and Elijah. St. John Chrysostom reminds us that many attacked Jesus for not being obedient to the Jewish Tradition found in the Law and the prophets. Yet, here he is receiving encouragement and support from those seen as representing Godís law (Moses) and his Prophets (Elijah). Clearly turning those criticisms on their heads.

This is also a unique time, this stage of glorification precedes his final days of ministry unto his death. This also brings forth another principle: When we feel those times most closest to God, we should enjoy them and prepare to enter a difficult struggle. Often times, one precedes the other. Therefore, when we go through difficult times and say to ourselves that we no longer feel closer to God as we did before, this is more normal than not. We may also find that the difficult time we experience may be more survivable due to that powerful reminder before of Godís presence.

I will not tell you what I went through in March of 2001 while on a desert retreat in Colorado, but it was the most powerful experience of the Lord I ever had and look at what it preceded.


Yet, these principles are important, but equally as important is what we see in the placement of simply one word in this whole gospel. The word is "I". Here is Peter surrounded by experiences of glory far beyond what he could imagine. What is his response? If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

Already Peter is making plans of how we can expand the mission of Christ during this time. He has it all figured out and like a man proposing a project to an investor he starts with his idea.

Look, we can have people meet Moses and Elijah; you can introduce them. Finally, people will come to know the truth, they will know who you are and all will be well.

If you really want to extend the characterization, imagine a cigar in his mouth and his arm around Jesus, saying "This will be big, really big, just stick with me Jesus and youíll be the biggest thing since Solomon."

However, he does not even get that far. Suddenly, they are all humbled before the Lord. They fall prostrate to the ground and the Father speaks. "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." Not only is the whole episode over, but Jesus even tells them to say nothing about it.

I am sure Peter was still in a state of shock as were James and John in the midst of this. Yet, not only must they remain silent, Peterís plans have come to naught. Why?


Peter does something that we all do. He has it all planned out what God needs at this time. He finds out, however, that Godís plans are not only beyond his, they are beyond his ability to comprehend. How did they know that Jesus plans involved not his glorification on a mountain, but his total humiliation on another one? We in our human mind cannot always discern the will of God, because Godís ways are not our ways and Godís thoughts are not our thoughts.

Peter, James and John prostrate themselves humbly before the Lord; it is only then that they come to get an inkling of just how ignorant they are to the deeper truths. Jesus, little do they know, prepares them for not only the painful events of the following week, but also the rest of their lives. Things were never the same once they responded to Jesusí call. However, things will never be the same once they witness Jesusí death and resurrection. From that point on, they will, in the most humbling of times, have to listen to the Holy Spirit. These men will learn and teach truths that they never imagined when they were just fishermen and met some preacher named Yeshua BarJonah. They had no idea just what was waiting for them. All their plans and ideas fall into inadequacy in light of what truly is coming in their future.

Yet, how many of us can resonate with Peter. Indeed, there is a whole fallen TV ministry that was centered on that principle. I have mentioned it before. The preachers talked about all the great things that Jesus wanted. The ministry fell. The minister went to jail and began reading the bible for the first time. There he learned what Jesus truly wanted. He had all along been presumptive.


Peter is the same one who tells Jesus that he must not die on the cross. He is the same one who tells Jesus what can be done. Yet, once he is humbled before the Lord, the door opens for him to begin to see what Jesus wants. He can close the door to his own leadership and now ...

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