The 'I' Word
By Fr. Robert J. Carr
©Catholic Online 2005
If we look carefully at today's gospel, the Transfiguration Story, we can see an important dynamic at play. Let's 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 God's 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 God's 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.
THE 'I' WORD
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 you'll 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, Peter's plans have come to naught. Why?
HERE IS WHAT 'I' WILL DO FOR YOU, OH LORD
Peter does something that we all do. He has it all planned out what God needs at this time. He finds out, however, that God's 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 God's ways are not our ways and God's 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 Jesus' call. However, things will never be the same once they witness Jesus' 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.
BLESSED ARE THE HUMBLE AS WELL AS THE HUMBLED
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 humbly bow before the leadership of Jesus and the Holy Spirit all from the Father. Yet, you and I run the risk of the same thing, if we are not humble before the Lord. We risk telling God what we believe needs to be done. The problem is when we are talking like that, we are not in the listening mode and we never hear what Jesus is saying. We are like Peter ready to build the booths and never getting what it is that Jesus wants of us, until we are humbled before the Lord.
Yet, this happens all the time. How often in our own world are we like Peter in our ability to plan big things for the Lord, while closing him out at the same time. How often do we actually listen to what the spirit is calling us to do? Or are we shutting out his voice because we know better than God? Peter did not have a bad idea, but his plans were woefully less what Christ was planning. Yet, Peter had not even the ability to get a clue about what was coming down the pike. I am sure he was looking back at this and thinking of how naďve he was on the mountain.
RATIONALISM VS. CATHOLICISM
One of the greatest problems facing our Church today is rationalism. Rationalism basically says that our faith is slave to our reason. Catholic tradition says they work together. If we make our faith slave to our reason, we blind ourselves to the work of God. We turn to God in all his glory and say, "If you want I will do great things for you." Never once do we hear him say those words to us, so we never hear God's words. When we really fall down that path, then we say it not to God, but to each other. This is the occupational hazard of the University.
A true rationalist laughs at the concept of the resurrection. He says it is impossible because it does not fit into the concept of how the world should work. That is exactly what Peter does. He thinks in a mindset unable to be open to the work of God outside normal means. That is until he with James and John falls prostrate on the ground and realizes just how inadequate is his form of thinking. When a rationalist is confronted with those things beyond explanation he gives it a quick explanation and then dismisses the whole enterprise. He just can't get beyond his own thinking.
A true rationalist will explain away miracles inadequately, manifestations of the spirit or even of negative spirits inadequately and any other manifestation of God. A rationalist cannot experience Jesus in the Eucharist because he may see physically, but is blind spiritually.
If we want to ask what is next for the Archdiocese of Boston, we need to fall prostrate before the Lord and allow the Lord to lead us. Otherwise, we will build one disastrous contraption after another until the whole enterprise falls and kills us all. Mother Teresa used to say, "Explain your plans to God and watch him laugh." It has yet to be determined whether Jesus laughed at the suggestion that Peter had made. However, I am sure long after Peter learned the true plans of God, he must have had a great laugh for himself at his own expense.
http://www.catholicismanew.org MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - Priest, 617 542-5682
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