Gospel Matthew 17:1-9
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
If I were to come up to everyone here and hand you a microphone and ask you three questions, I am sure you could answer the first two questions within a few seconds. The third question you might think about.
For those of you who are married, the first two questions are: What is the date of your marriage, and where did you get married? For myself, the first two questions are, what is the date of your ordination and where were you ordained? For others I would just ask, what year did you graduate from high school and from what school?
Now the third question: How has your marriage changed your life? How has my ordination changed my life? How did the school that you attended change your life?
When you begin to delve into those questions, you begin to realize that when Peter, James and John went up the mountain and when they saw Moses and Eliza they saw God saying to them, “OK, you guys. This is the law and the prophets. This is what you call the Bible. This is what we call Scripture. Is your life changed every time you read it?”
You and I are very much like Peter. “Ah, it’s a good feeling. Let’s do something right now!”
And God says, “Don’t act too fast. I have something planned for you for the rest of your life.”
And then, all of a sudden we hold back.
But what the three disciples found out, when it was all said and done, it was just Peter, James and John with Jesus. And this Jesus guy they had been hanging out with isn’t just anybody you hang out with — he is the Son of God. He made a difference in their lives. He’s made a difference in our lives.
Peter, James and John could remember when Jesus first said to them, “Come follow me.” They heard his voice with their hearts, but they had no idea what they were getting into. When Jesus calls, and he’s asking us to listen — what takes place is an experience of love.
So, going back to the three questions, I am sure everyone here would say as I would say, “Well, you know, the day I got married, and the day I was ordained, and the day I graduated from high school — I had no idea what was going to happen the rest of my life. Some days have been good and some days not so good. But I am learning as I live out each day that there is more to my wedding day, and my ordination day, and my graduation day. And that every so often God does take me up on a mountain and says, ‘It is good that we are here. I am about to leave you and I really do not want to leave until you know who I am. Once you know who I am, you will have power.’ ”
There was a small town, and in this town the sheriff’s office had a jail, and the sheriff and his wife lived above the jail. One day the sheriff’s wife came downstairs and went into his office to talk to her husband. She started to leave when she heard someone crying. She looked down the hall where the cells were located but she couldn’t see anyone.
She still heard the crying so she looked into each cell and found this young boy in the corner of one of the cells just sobbing. She said to the jailor, “Would you mind opening this gate.” She went inside the cell and over to the young boy and asked, “What’s the matter? What are you doing here?”
He looked up at her and said, “Well, I shot a girl. I really didn’t mean to do it, but it just happened.”
The woman said, “Just a minute.” And she went to the jailor and said, “Call the judge and have this boy released to my care.” Within thirty minutes all of that happened and she took the boy upstairs to the apartment.
She got him showered, put some clean clothes on him, and she fed this little boy. While he sat there and ate he told her his story. And she asked, “Where is your family?” And he said, “I ain’t got one.” And she said, “You don’t have a family?” And he answered, “No. I’m all alone. I’m just kind of wandering around.”
A few days later he appeared before a judge, and the judge sentenced him to a reform school. He was only eight or nine years old. As he was getting ready to leave for the reform school, he turned to this lady and asked, “When I get out of the reform school, may I come back here?”
And she said, “Why do you want to come back to the jail? You need to go out and get on with your life and have some wonderful things happen.”
He looked at her and said, “You gave me a home that I never had. So when I get out, I want to come back home.”
Tears filled her eyes and she said to him, “My son, you are always welcome here.”
She gave him a hug and he went off to reform school.
When the woman heard the boy crying and decided to go into the cell and help him, it was a mountain experience. It was in that experience — she was no longer a woman, she was no longer the wife of the sheriff, she was Christ to this boy, and she was mom. And the boy finally understood why some people have someone in their lives that they can call mom — and he did not want to let go.
What have been your mountain experiences this week? Is Lent moving along so fast that nothing has happened? Or did God take you somewhere? Was there something unique that happened? Were you with someone and God asked you to do something and God said, “Please come.” And for some reason you came. You didn’t put up excuses. And when you came there was a difference in your life.
That’s what these forty days are all about. We’re not just tallying up, “One week down, five to go.” Jesus would say, “Get back to Ash Wednesday. Get the ashes again. You’re screwing the whole thing up. It’s a forty-day journey. I intend to intervene in your life, and I am going to take you places you may not want to go. I may bless you in ways you will never understand why I blessed you. But please, don’t take these forty days and scratch them off of the calendar every day. But live your faith. Experience love.
Don’t take things for granted.”
And remember: the day you graduated, or the day you got married, or the day I was ordained — it wasn’t for a day. It was for a lifetime in an exchange with God that you and I would always be ready to listen. And God would always say, as he did to Abraham and to Paul, and to Jesus, and to Peter, James and John, “Will you follow me? Do you want to experience love? Do you want to have hope in your life? If you do, always make sure you answer the third question.”
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.