I Was a Joyful Intern: A Fortaste of Heaven
MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on a new job, heaven, Jesus, Peter, Jame, John and a mountain. What is this Transfiguration nonsense all about? What does it have to do with my “giving up” thing for lent? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. Please read Matthew 17:1-9. #Prayer #Sermons #Homilyhelper #GivingUpSodaForLent #Lent #Heaven
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For MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/16/2014 The 2nd Sunday of Lent.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 17:1-9.
In the Spring of 2013, the student worker in our office at that time, Anita Dominic, came joyfully into the Ministry Department at Benedictine dressed very professionally and with a huge smile on her face.
“Good morning, Anita. What are you so very happy about today?” I said.
“I just got back from my “pre-clinicals”. I was observing the special education teacher at a school and I have found what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she exclaimed.
The excitement filled the room as she added one more thing. She said, “I cannot wait to study what I am going to do more, now that I have gone and experienced what I want to do for the rest of my life!” Later in the semester she admitted to me that college suddenly became much easier.
Anita was one of the many joys of working with young students, but her experience is not just for the young. We all have experiences where we have experienced the foretaste of something that we want to experience all the time. We can job shadow, like Anita did. We can go to a place on vacation and realize that it is the kind of place we want to retire to in later years. We can meet someone who is doing some service that inspires us to want to do that service. In many ways, we have this pre-figuring, foretasting element in our lives that causes us to be inspired.
Who wants to do school work? Anita did after she had a foretaste of what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. The papers, the studying for tests, the practicums she would have to pass, all of that work seemed suddenly like nothing because she had a goal and knew that toward which she was working.
I am perplexed every year why it is that we put the Transfiguration on the Second Sunday of Lent. Mainline Protestant Churches have “Transfiguration Sunday” which is the Sunday just before Lent. For them, they show the glory of the Resurrection as a foretaste of the suffering that will take place as we journey with Christ to the Cross through Lent. In struggling with the placement of this story, I can see a different kind of logic. We have been “giving up something for Lent” or added a new spiritual practice 11 days now. Those who have given up caffeine, in particular, are struggling with staying awake. After the gusto of being willing to not have desserts, this week we find the temptation to have ‘just one’ is a little more. Those who have set up a curse jar, which I never knew was so popular, are now finding that we are actually putting money in the jar because eleven days of not swearing has worn a little thin. I think the placement here for us, for one reason, is that in our focus on Lent, we need an added reminder that for which we are observing a holy Lent.
The Transfiguration is a bold and dramatic statement of who Christ is. The man with whom the apostles walk, talk, laugh, eat, and spend lots of time with on earth, takes Peter, James and John with him up on a mountain. Now, if you recall, Jesus is always escaping to mountains to pray. The mountain is where Moses got the Ten Commandments. The mountain is where Elijah heard the “still small voice” of God when he was running from Ahad and Jezebel. The mountain is the place where the divine is encountered. So, Jesus was taking Peter, James and John up the mountain to encounter God with him, so they thought.
While they were there, the three saw Moses, the great law giver and symbol of the Law, and Elijah, the great prophet and symbol of the Prophecy God, both of them with Jesus. In their midst, Jesus shone brightly and a pure white, just like we read in Revelation in the heavenly vision of the Son of Man, aka Jesus. A ‘bright cloud,’ reminiscent of Moses on Mount Sinai, descends representing the presence of God. There, the voice says to them that Jesus is God’s Son. It is saying that Jesus is God.
What is the response of Peter to the vision of God? His response is “Let’s capture this moment in a booth forever.” The problem with that plan is that the Transfiguration is not about the moment. The Transfiguration is not a moment to be captured forever and gazed upon. Peter is right in acknowledging that Jesus is to be ranked at least as high as Moses and Elijah, worthy of our respect. Peter is right to acknowledge that Jesus is at least is to be ranked with the Law and the Prophecy of God. Yet, the words of God coming from the cloud seal the deal: Jesus is greater than the Law, he is its fulfillment. Jesus is greater than the Prophecy, he is its fulfillment. This moment is a statement: God lives among humanity. God lives and shines among humanity. God lives and calls all humanity to himself for a moment that is not only this time.
The same guy who walked, talked, laughed and cried with the apostles is God. The same God we love, worship and adore, walks with us through our daily lives. We go to worship him in a booth-like environment called Church every Sunday, but we walk down from the mountain and I think we forget, he walks with us. He talks with us. He laughs with us. He cries with us. Suitable for the placement of this passage in the Sundays of Lent, he struggles with us.
The Transfiguration is all that and more.
Like Anita, who experienced what she was going to do for the rest of her life and was inspired to do the work necessary to get there. We, too, should experience God, Jesus, the Church through the Transfiguration to know that this is where we are going. We are going to the mountaintop. We will see the other side. We will behold the glory of the Lord and his coming Kingdom. We will be children of the living God in his Kingdom where he will reign forever and ever. Mourning will be no more. Crying will be no more. There will be joy forever more. We will all be God’s children. That knowledge should inspire us to do the homework of the Gospel until we get there.
What is that homework? It is to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, visit those in prison, and to pray and worship until we are with him forever. Even more, it is to love one another. All of this stuff is hard. It can be tedious at times. It can challenge us, but if we keep the foretaste of heaven and the Second Coming which is prefigured in the Transfiguration, we can find the work exciting.
When I was in Catholic Seminary, my professor, Fr. Larry Hennessey, used to say, “Men, it is ultimately about salvation. That is why Jesus came, ya’ know.” What it salvation? It is being saved. What is salvation? It is going to heaven. With all of the distractions of social media and gadgetry we have come up with in this country, and the large houses on golf course sized lawns we aspire to, with all the traveling that we are doing at such a young age, it is hard for us to imagine that there is a place of which we could get a foretaste and it could change our lives forever. Heaven is that place. The Transfiguration is that foretaste.
So, in the midst of your caffeine free Lent, your dearth of sweets, your giving up of soda pop, and whatever else it is that you are doing to show you love Jesus and appreciate his walk to the cross for you, look up to heaven. Think and enjoy the respite of hope it gives. The things of earth will grow strangely dim and you should experience a joy that allows you to do all that needs to be done for God and his Christ. Amen? Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of MySpiritualAdvisor.com and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of MySpiritualAdvisor.com, LLC. MySpiritualAdvisor.com, 2014.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian