Second Sunday of Lent – 12 March 2017
Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9
Do not be afraid!
This Sunday’s Gospel passage recounts an experience that the disciples had with Jesus. It is a story of two contrasting parts. Things start out quite well, with Jesus going up the mountain with Peter, James and John, and they get better when Jesus is transfigured in their presence and then on top of that, Moses and Elijah appear. It all put the disciples on a real high, and not surprisingly they want the moment to last and so they propose building three tents.
Quite suddenly the situation changes when a cloud casts a shadow over this glorious scene, the disciples hear a voice from the sky and they are terrified and get down on the ground to protect themselves. Their confidence is shattered – very quickly they seem to have forgotten the spiritual high of a few moments earlier and how close they were to Moses, Elijah and Jesus. It is Jesus who takes them out of their state of terror when he comes up to them, touches them, tells them to stand up and then says ‘do not be afraid!’
It is unlikely that many of us will have such a spiritual high as the disciples did in this Gospel passage but we all have a sense of what it is to feel good about someone or some situation and to want the moment to last. However the good times in our lives are balanced with times when we lose our confidence, don’t know what to do and are afraid. Clouds can cast shadows that change a situation from light to darkness.
It is in those moments of darkness that Jesus comes close to us, touches us and tells us to stand up and not to be afraid. Perhaps we don’t sense Jesus near us, don’t feel his touch or hear his voice, but the message of this Gospel is that it is not just in the good days, but more especially in the dark days that Jesus will be with us.
The disciples were brought up the high mountain by Jesus to have this experience in order to let them know that there will be good days and hard times, to prepare them for the suffering of his passion, and to let them know that he will be with them through it all, and not to be afraid.
Jesus doesn’t say that he will take away the clouds that cast shadows on our lives or that he will take away the darkness and fear. His message is that we should not lie down or hide when these things come our way, but on the contrary we should stand up and not be afraid, for he is near us.
Life is made up of days of light and darkness – the memory of the light is often all we have to keep us going when clouds cast shadows.
Fr Richard Purcell ocso