Beyond the awesome moments

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

In today’s Gospel, Peter wishes to prolong the Transfiguration experience: “It is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” But that was only a foretaste of heaven and not the main deal. Like Peter, we’ve all had awesome moments that made us wish to remain there for good. Such moments we describe as: absolutely incredible, awesome, fantastic, splendid, breathtaking, etc. Sadly however, those moments do not endure as we cannot possibly achieve supreme happiness here on earth.

With every scientific breakthrough, we realize how much more we do not know. Every new invention, instead of providing durable satisfaction, rather opens a whole new vista of opportunities begging to be explored. The invention of the printing press in 1450 ignited a scientific revolution that made it possible for everyone to have access to knowledge; it is still regarded as the greatest event of the modern period. Then the Television came and radically changed society in its own way. The mobile phone was another great leap in technological progress.

Then the internet came and the world has become a global village. We live in an age of seamless interconnectedness; and yet, we are no happier today than a hundred years ago!  The more advances we make in science and general knowledge, the more we realize how much more we do not know. Just last month, our cosmology was changed with the discovery by astronomers of a new planetary system – the Trappist-1. Ironically, the more affluent we become, the more selfish and unhappy we tend to be; and the more we crawl back into own little private space – our “comfort zone”. Thus, our fear of offending becomes our fear of engaging! And this unhappy trend will continue until Christ comes at the end of history. As St Augustine says, our hearts will remain restless until they rest in God. Therefore, we are called to look beyond the comforts and pleasures – the awesome moments of this present life, and to work rather for the happiness that endures.

The Transfiguration of the Lord was an epiphany moment for Peter – a glorious moment. We have all had sublime moments when we felt the awesome power of God, and we knew with absolute conviction that he was right there with us. Maybe it was a retreat or a homily at Mass. Maybe it was our first holy communion. Maybe it was the birth of a child, and you felt the boundless joy of parenthood for the first time. Maybe it was when we went to confession for the first time in years and got struck by the awesome power of God’s healing forgiveness. Maybe it was in the midst of a tragedy – sickness or even death in the family – and you felt the overwhelming presence of God comforting you. These are profound moments that make us exclaim like Jacob: “The Lord is in this place, and I did not know it”(Gen. 28:16).

God gives us those moments for a reason, just like he did to Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration.  Those moments are meant to give us a foretaste of the greater glory that lies ahead. Jesus knew that his passion was imminent. He knew that his disciples would be shaken by the events, and so he gives them a glimpse of his glory so that they may draw strength and consolation from it when things start to get tough for them. Jesus wanted to strengthen them against discouragement in the face of persecutions, especially when he was no longer with them. Likewise, our own awesome moments are meant to prepare us to face difficulties; to assure us of the eternal consolation awaiting those who persevere till the end.

Also, those awesome moments should remind us that our work remains unfinished until we rest in Christ. Moses and Elijah each had an unfinished business. Moses worked extremely hard for his people but was only able to see the Promised Land from a distance – he did not enter. Elijah also worked tremendously hard for God and his people but his mission ended abruptly as he was snatched up to heaven by a chariot of fire. Their appearance with Jesus indicates that their work (The Law and the Prophecy) was to find fulfillment only in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the definitive Prophet and the eternal Lawgiver in whom all our efforts and mountain experiences find fulfillment. Jesus is our Transfiguration!

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, an American obstetrician /gynaecologist was once the director of the largest freestanding abortion facility in the world. By his own admission, this man was responsible for more than 75,000 abortions. He personally did about 5,000 of those, including the abortion of his own child.  His awesome moment came with the development of ultrasound technology, and he had the chance to observe abortion in real-time. This was a profound, sublime, defining moment for him. It led this man to change his views and his life. He then became a prominent Pro-Life campaigner and made two documentaries – The Silent Scream and The Eclipse of Reason. In 1996 he converted to Roman Catholicism and was baptized. On his reason for conversion he said: “No religion matches the special role for forgiveness that is afforded by the Catholic Church”. Bernard Nathanson received the grace and amazing power of God’s forgiveness, which is open to each one of us. That power of grace and forgiveness which put this man at peace with God and with himself is open to each one of us – just for the asking.

Dear friends, every Mass is a glorious experience, a Transfiguration moment, a foretaste of the eternal banquet of the Lamb. Therefore, let today’s Eucharist be an epiphany moment for all of us; may it revive our drooping spirits, and may we be inspired to approach the throne of mercy with faith and confidence.

May the Father of all consolation give us each a glimpse of his glory today, to sustain our hunger for the beatific vision! Amen.