I remember the conversation as if it happened yesterday even though it happened more than 40 years ago. Someone was pressuring me to go to some religious gathering and I had no desire to attend. They told me all the advantages, the convenient time and place, the people I knew and respected would be there and I would not budge. I felt as if I knew all I needed to know about my faith and was living it just fine. My attitude at that time was “I am comfortable with my faith as it is so just leave me alone.”
Then that person, knowing I truly admired and respected our pastor Fr. Quinn, said to me “if Fr. Quinn goes will you go.” Without hesitation I said if Fr. Quinn goes I will go. What followed next was a statement that shook me to the core. The person looked me in the eye and said “…good you follow Fr. Quinn and I will follow Jesus.” That statement caused me to seriously consider if the foundation of my faith was based on its leaders, the institution, the tradition and history or was it based on Jesus.
We have seen our church rocked in 2003 by the abuse scandal and those headlines still are appearing today. Many people expressing their disgust left the church after the sin of those they trusted and believed in was uncovered. On the other hand I also witnessed people leaving a parish for no other reason than a phenomena I call “priest adoration.” Those people will leave a parish to follow a favorite priest when that priest is transferred to another parish. I have also seen the reverse of that and it is when a new pastor comes in and his leadership style drives away faithful parishioners who flee to a neighboring parish.
Today on the feast of the transfiguration many of you have heard homilies about the appearance of Elijah, Moses and Jesus on that mountain. Those homilies will have connected that event with the promise of our resurrection on the last day. That reality is reinforced by the first reading today from the book of Daniel. Daniel’s vision gives us a direct image of what we can expect when we die
You very likely could have heard homilies about this image of the glorified Jesus being a promise of our own transformation by the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is transformation is promised to us by God in the prophesies if Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
You could have heard of the desire to be in that place forever by Peter saying “it is good to be here” and his desire to build a shelter to remain there.
There is so much richness in this gospel event it is hard not to remind you of all of those things and all those concepts would be appropriate for us to meditate upon. However, my thoughts today go to that statement I was told more than forty years ago. What am I following? God’s voice coming out of the cloud speaking to Peter is pertinent to us today and every day – “This is my beloved son, listen to him.”
If we were listening to Jesus the abuse scandal would have shocked us but our faith would not be shaken because we are following Jesus. How can we deal with all that we find lacking in the church if we do not hear the voice of Jesus saying to us as did to Martha …“..why are you anxious and afraid only one thing is required?”
What was Mary doing that Martha was not? She was sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to him. If we are not listening to Jesus how can we handle the daily issues that cause us all kinds of pain and disappointment? How can we handle those things if we do not hear his invitation “…come to me all you who are burdened and I will give you rest?”
All we seek is found in Jesus and he told us we should seek him instead of other things when he said “…seek first the kingdom of God and all things will be added.” How do we seek him, where do we go to listen to him and is it possible to hear his voice speaking to us?
All these are good questions and we find the answers in the teaching of the church and in the inspired word of God. How did Saint Augustine go from living his life of sin to become a great father of the church and a saint? He discovered Jesus in the scriptures and listened to the words as they spoke to his heart. How did the disciples go from poor fishermen to disciples and evangelist? Jesus spoke to them and they followed and listened.
I could go on and on pointing to people we call saints and holy men and women who heard the voice of God and responded. Yet none of them would ever be known to us if they had not listened to the voice of Jesus. The message of the transfiguration is to know without a doubt the promise of life is ours but we need to listen to Jesus to be able to truly open ourselves up to receive the promise. We like Peter want to stay where we are comfortable doing the things we believe is right. I was doing that when that voice asked me who I was following. What we seek will not be found by staying in one place watching the glory of heaven promised to us.
However, we like Peter, James and John are called to become disciples following Jesus who listen to his voice and allow it to penetrate our hearts. Sometimes that voice comes to us from someone we love challenging us to take a hard look at what you are following.