To judge by our media, people live between two poles. On one extreme we have the spin masters, those experts at putting a positive face on embarrassing events. We expect it from politicians and we get it from many others. A Hollywood couple shares the secrets of their romantic relationship, then a few months later breaks up. But they assure us they remain friends. Rather than say it is nobody's business, they try to convince their audience - and maybe even themselves - that everything is fine. And that they still do possess the key to close human relationships.
Perhaps as a reaction to such superficiality, some go to the other extreme. Instead of saying "everything is fine," they focus on human perversity: greed, duplicity, selfishness, etc. A television program called Survivor has achieved wild popularity by taking that angle. It supposedly gives an intimate look at human beings as the money grubbing double crossers we really are.
Those are the two poles of our culture: "Everything is fine" and "No, things are pretty rotten." Perhaps you expect me to make a synthesis - a golden mean between the two extremes, some kind of balancing act. I am not going to do that because, as I mentioned, the first, while superficial, is useful for fending off nosy people. The second, however, is true - but does not go far enough.*
Today's Gospel takes us deeper. Along with Peter, James and John we get a glimpse of history's central figure. He repeatedly referred to himself as the "Son of Man." The title bespeaks humility: "The Son of Man has no place to lay his his head." (Lk 5:58) "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve." (Mk 10:45) "the Son of Man is going to suffer..." (Mt 17:12). However, along with humiliation comes exaltation. Our first reading tells about a Son of Man who will appear "on the clouds of heaven" and have "everlasting dominion." (Dan 7:13) When Jesus used that title he was indicating a status greater than any other human.
For that reason when Peter, James and John finally had time alone with Jesus, he was transfigured before them. We sometimes think how beautiful to have been on that mountain. But the Gospel says, "they were terrified." (Mk 9:6) Plato got it right. We are like cave dwellers who only see shadows projected on a wall. We resent, maybe even laugh at the person who boldly concludes the shadows refer to solid reality. To look directly on the brightness of God would blind us. But Jesus prepared at least three men to get a glimpse of his real self. Many years after, a letter of Peter describes the event and how he was "an eyewitness of Jesus' majesty." (2 Peter 1:16)
When people say "everything is fine" it may mean more than "don't bother me." What if - in spite of the cold evidence that things fall apart - God has planted in us an intimation of something deeper? Jesus did have to face an unspeakable debasement (Elijah and Moses conversed with him about it) but another voice called him "beloved Son." (Mk 9:7) When Jesus takes us into the Father-Son relationship, things do become right.
*The fact we use words like rotten or corrupt implies a standard of health or goodness. The "realist" (a.k.a. pessimist or cynic) sooner or later betrays his disappointed idealism. He may considers man to be just one more animal, driven by Darwinian impulses. However, does he really believe it? Does he make the same judgment about a lion that attacks a sick antelope and a businessman who pays a Haitian child thirty cents an hour to make hundred dollar tennis shoes? p>Homilies for Second Sunday of Lent ("Transfiguration Sunday")
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Parish Picture Album
40 Days for Life (Everett, WA)
Q&A about Planned Parenthood
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