In nomine Jesu!
Why? Why did Jesus take Peter, James and John up on the mountain to see him in his glory?
Or, better: Why did Matthew, Mark and Luke think this event was so important as to place it as a hinge, a turning point, in the story of Jesus, neatly dividing his early, wildly successful Galilean ministry from the torturous journey to Jerusalem for betrayal, suffering and dying on a cross?
I won't keep you in suspense. Here's my single-faceted one lens answer to this "why" question and all of the others above: To give us a resurrection point of view.
Eight days after their wiIdly successful ministry and weeks before the full impact of his passion, Jesus took his closest companions up on the mountain to give them a resurrection point of view so that they would see more than death, destruction and defeat in the events that lay ahead; so that they would not be afraid; so that they would not lose hope. A resurrection point of view, I suggest, is as good a definition
of faith as any other.
A resurrection point of view does not question, doubt, deny, debunk or minimize hard evidence, scientific fact, or cold reality. To the contrary, it takes these most seriously.
Think about Jesus. According to the scriptures, Jesus makes no attempt β not one β to deny, doubt or minimize the factual realities of life.
Whenever Jesus speaks about money, the bottom line is always the bottom line, but from a resurrection point of view, it's not the definitive line nor is it the last word.
Whenever Jesus speaks about oppression, about systematic injustice, whether intentional or accidental; whenever Jesus speaks about the winning and losing we call competition in the market or in the community, for a better education, job or position, or even in the family, Jesus never says the downside of these are painless, or meaningless or that we should just grin and bear them, but from a resurrection point of view he reminds us these are not the last or even the most important words that describes our life.
Whenever Jesus speaks about human suffering,
about the pain of rejection, the agony of loss, about the growing limits of life that comes with age or about our grudging surrender to the inevitability of death, Jesus never says that we should ignore or deny or pretend these are not hurtful or harmful, painful and distressing, but from a resurrection point of view Jesus invites us to see these defeats, these weaknesses, these limitations as penultimate in our lives and not as the last or defining word.
In fact, from a resurrection point of view, Jesus invites us to use what everyone else sees as life defining βevery "no;" every deficit, setback, shortcoming, uncertainty and weakness, even death and dying itself β as way β as the way β the unique, counter-intuitive and counter-culture way β to transform the world.
Trust in God's Promise β faith β a resurrection point of view β neither denies nor dismisses science, economics, genetics, nurture, nature, generally accepted rules of accounting or any other reality. A resurrection point of view simply believes that all these realities are not the only, last, or defining word. Life is! Resurrection is! God is!
In today's Gospel, Jesus takes Peter, James and
John up the mountaintop for a once-in-a-lifetime experience of his glory in order to give them a resurrection point of view so that they will have courage, hope and confidently persevere in the trials that lie ahead.
It didn't work.
According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, even though Peter, James and John had this marvelous, once-in-a-lifetime, mountaintop experience, they still fell apart in the face of adversity; they still collapsed when opposition clouded their view, A once-a-lifetime experience was not enough to give them a resurrection point of view. Not enough on this side of the grave. Not enough for Peter, James and John. I'll be very personal: I know it's never enough for me.
That's why Jesus gave us the mass β the Eucharist β a repeatable mountaintop experience β a first-class resurrection point of view; a gift, an opportunity to experience, not just Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John; but all those who have gone before us and all those others we love and long for who live in resurrection light. Saint Paul gets it exactly right for us today: Seeing that, experiencing that, we
do not lose heart. We have a resurrection point of view.
In Jesus Christ, that's what God gave us. That's what I want for all of you. And as long as I have breath, that's precisely where I'll take you. And when I'm gone β when all of us are gone β that is where we'll find each other; here, at Christ's table, where we meet God, face-to-face, always and forever, from a resurrection point of view.
Amandus J. Derr
Saint Peter's Church
In The City of New York