This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.
“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him” (Luke 9.35b)
“Who will buy this wonderful morning?
Such a sky you never did see.
Who will tie it up with a ribbon and put it in a box for me? …..
….. and I would keep it as a treasure to last my whole life long.”
These are words from a song in the 1968 film “Oliver!” based on Charles Dickens’ book Oliver Twist.
Oliver has suffered a lot both at the workhouse and during his apprenticeship with an undertaker. After running away he meets the Artful Dodger and is caught up in Fagin’s den with other boys who are being taught to pick pockets for a living. On his first outing Oliver is arrested for robbing a gentleman called Mr Brownlow but cleared when an eye witness says that Oliver was not the culprit.
Mr Brownlow takes Oliver to his home to look after him. When he wakes up on his first morning there Oliver hears street-sellers singing outside. He steps out on to his balcony under a blue sky and sings:
“Who will buy this wonderful morning? …..
Who will tie it up in a ribbon and put it in a box for me?”
We see the wonder and joy on Oliver’s face but this is not the end of the story – he will soon face more danger and suffering.
And we know there is more danger and suffering ahead for Jesus as we hear today’s Gospel reading.
As they walk with Jesus up towards the mountain top, Peter, James and John probably have no idea what is about to happen. Before their very eyes Jesus is transfigured. His clothes become dazzling white and the appearance of his face changes. Matthew tells us that his face shines like the sun. And then two giants in the history of the people of Israel appear, Moses the law-giver and Elijah, the prophet, and they talk with Jesus.
It’s at once thrilling, awesome, life-changing and terrifying because Peter, James and John know they’re in God’s presence in a moment that brings together the past, the present and the future in one eternal moment of now-ness.
Peter doesn’t know what to say but, like Oliver on that sunny morning, he wants to capture the moment – put it in a box, build it a home where he can keep it safe and visit it. It’s a moment too special to be allowed to disappear – he must cling on to it even as it fades and becomes a memory.
And we can be sure that Peter, James and John will also carry with them the memory of the voice of God speaking from the overshadowing cloud and remember his words: “This is my Son, my Chosen, the Beloved; listen to him”.
Here is a moment of certainty for them to hold on to as they begin their journey to Jerusalem with Jesus remembering what he has already told them about the suffering that awaits him there.
Maybe some of us have had a dramatic experience like this, transcending everything we’ve ever known and filling us with life-giving energy.
Or maybe we’ve known what we sometimes call “mountaintop experiences” – moments of insights and a deep sense of God’s presence. Some words of scripture might suddenly come alive with an impact that leads our lives in new directions. Perhaps a photograph or a painting shows us the world in a way we’ve never seen it before and gives us a new way of looking at what’s going on around us.
Moments like these lift us up, sometimes out of our comfort zone. Like Peter, we may want to keep that moment for ever because it’s good and happy and safe. But we have to let it go otherwise we will always be looking backwards and not forwards into a future where God will continue to reveal himself to us.
Peter, James and John don’t talk about their experience until after Jesus has risen from the dead. But we are Easter people and we are called to tell the story of the transfiguration and resurrection of Jesus to our generation.
Peter, James and John continued walking with Jesus towards Jerusalem where they know there will be danger. We are called to continue our journey with Jesus, into a future that may also seem uncertain and scary. But like them, we carry the faith that Jesus is God’s Son, the Beloved. We can listen to him and know we are hearing God’s voice speaking of Truth and Love.
Let us pray to the Lord our God whose glory fills the earth and who responds with love and compassion to our prayers for the needs of others as well as for ourselves.
We pray for God’s church that she may faithfully reveal the light and glory of Christ in a dark and troubled world.
We pray for people throughout the world who walk under dark clouds of war, oppression, poverty and disasters both natural and of human origin.
We pray for our own communities, friends and families asking that God will bless them and reveal to us his purposes in our lives.
We pray for those living in shadows of illness and pain and for all who are bereaved or weighed down with the suffering of their minds. We ask that God will give them his peace and reveal to them his presence alongside them.
Lord God, we thank you for your loving kindness towards us. We offer you these prayers trusting that you will respond in your wisdom and generosity. Help us to listen for your voice calling us to work with you for the good of those for whom we have prayed. We ask these things in the name of your Beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen