On the Second Sunday of Lent, every year, no matter what the liturgical cycle, we hear the narrative of the Transfiguration.
(There is also a Feast of the Transfiguration, on August 6)
We only hear of the actual moment on the mountain, but what precedes it is important, too, and perhaps your homilist alluded to it today.
Before Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on the mountain, he had been conversing with them and the other apostles. It was the moment when he asked them Who do people say that I am? And Who do you say that I am? Peter had, of course, responded in faith and truth: You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
The conversation doesn’t end there, for Jesus continues, telling them about the way of this Messiah, his way – a way of suffering. Peter can’t believe it, Jesus rebukes him, and lets his friends and disciples know that anyone who wishes to follow him will be taking up a cross.
And then they climb the mountain.
I went to Mass today at the convent where my sons often serve. It was a small congregation, as usual. Sisters, friends, family members. There were two older men in wheelchairs, several children, a developmentally disabled young man, and concelebrating with the friar, a hundred-year old priest with his walker, his pillow, his handkerchief and his glass of water.
Hearts, minds and spirits bore crosses, too, not visible, but no less real, I’m sure.
Life is serious, challenging and hard. It’s rugged and scars you.
Jesus doesn’t promise a bountiful best awesome life on earth to his disciples. He promises – promises – a cross.
Why is liturgy formal and serious?
Because life is serious.
God didn’t make it so – we did – but God enters this life as it is, as our sin has made it, and God redeems it and takes up that Cross we have fashioned on himself.
Up the mountain.
We follow him, all of us carrying crosses and burdens, and there atop the moment we are blessed with a gift: light, love and glory.
It awaits, we are promised, but there on the mountain, we see something else. That gift isn’t just waiting ahead – it’s here now. It’s here in this Body of Christ, in the gift of Word and Sacrament, a glimpse of what awaits, an anchor and a hope.
It’s a gift that’s not dependent on us. It’s not dependent on how much we understand or know, or how well we speak or see, how quickly we can move, or how rich or poor we are.
Formality and ritual makes this clear. Redemption awaits, and it is offered to you and each of the wildly different people around you, each trudging up the mountain under their own cross, but it is one thing – the love of God – and it is sure, definite, solid and glorious. No matter who you are or what you can do, God offers it, and offers you a chance to respond the best way you can, in whatever way your soul can move, love and say yes, it is good for me to be here.