Daniel 7: 9-10, 13-14 2 Peter 1: 16-19 Matthew 12: 1-9
When our attention is wanted, something breaks into our routine to gain it. It could be a siren of an ambulance, a fire truck or a police car. Or, it could a siren warning us of an impending storm. It also could be a strange and distracting noise on a radio or television, or crawl across the bottom or top of a television screen. With the various means of communication now available to us, such a warning may take some different form. Various ways are used to alert us, to make us pause and be attentive. Something important is happening, we need to be informed or even warned.
In a way, this is what is happening this weekend in the liturgical life of the Church. In the midst of hearing different parables from Jesus about the Kingdom of Heaven, the revelation of God to mankind that he is teaching, we are told today of a particular, mystical experiences three of his followers had during the course of that ministry. It was away of encouraging them, especially after they had learned that part of following Jesus, being a part of his Kingdom, also meant sharing in “carrying the cross. It meant accepting burdens, difficulties, rejection and eve persecution. Being a follower of Jesus was not necessarily going to be easy.
The key to understanding all of this, I believe, can be found in the words attributed to St. Peter in the second reading we heard today. First he describes to us that what he and the others have taught in their preaching was not some sort of contrived story, it was not something that was simply “made up.” Then he shares with us what he and the others truly experienced during the course of following Jesus, an event that was deep and abiding. In doing this, Peter seeks to encourage the faith of the people to whom he is writing and speaking. He holds out to us the image of the Transfiguration that we have heard. Jesus as seen by three of the Apostles with great figures of the Old Testament. His ministry was a continuation of their faith tradition. Jesus is seen assuming a rightful place in glory and majesty, despite what other ways they might see him in the time to come. Jesus is the Beloved Son in whom we are to believe, the one who lives in union with and truly reveals God to all of creation.
Peter saw this image, and the memory of this event transformed him forever. He recognized its importance, especially after the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. This is what gave him vision and hope. It may have been the Transfiguration of Jesus but, more importantly, it was the transformation of Peter.
It is precisely this hope that Daniel sought to give to the people of the Old Covenant in his vision. A prophet is a visionary, not someone who foretells the future. Through a particular poetic and spiritual way of seeing and saying things, the prophet attempts to put life and reality into perspective. He looks at the reality of life through the eyes of one filled with a genuine sense of God’s presence in his personal life. He is speaking to the Jews in exile, in defeat, and holds out to them the image of triumph and victory. Daniel wanted them to keep this vision in their minds. It was to give them hope even in the midst of persecution. It was to be their encouragement.
As for ourselves, we may not have the recollection of a vision such as did the Apostles. There is nothing so spectacular available to us. The visionary view of one like Daniel is limited to a very few. But, hopefully, in the history of our own faith experience there have been episodes which gave us insight into a certain closeness to God. It may have been a sacramental occasion like a baptism, a First Communion, a Confirmation, or a Wedding. It may have been the experience of the love of someone who is very special in our lives. It may have been some event, like the birth of a child or a magnificent experience of nature, in which we truly felt touched by God.
In the times when our faith seems dry or routine, when we might not feel particularly close to God, think back to that other time, that time of transfiguration, of transformation. The Lord appeared to us in a type of majesty – not in a figurative description as he appeared to the Apostles or Daniel, but as we experienced a touch of God’s presence in our lives.
Today our attention is sought and we take a break in the story of the ministry of Jesus we have been hearing over the past weeks. We are reminded to be like Peter and revel in a memory of a Godly experience that gives hope and encouragement. In the midst of our own lives which might be troubled or difficult, in the midst of world events that can be painful or confusing, it is faith that moves us, faith that gives hope, faith that sustains us. It is faith that is founded on a trust and confidence, a deep and abiding conviction – indeed, a vision – of our good and gracious God.