"This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." (Mark 9:6)
The readings for today’s mass present us with a moving sermon on the nature of faith and the beautiful account of Jesus’ transfiguration on Mount Tabor. In our first reading from the book of Hebrews, we are reminded that "Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen." In the Gospel, we see Jesus taking his closest friends, Peter, James and John, up a high mountain where he is suddenly transfigured before their eyes. Jesus is seen talking with Elijah and Moses, two of the great prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures. The disciples were overcome with fear and Peter began to talk nonsense. That is when God stops him cold. God simply says, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." Listening to Jesus is the same as listening to God!
Up to this point, the disciples were not good listeners. Jesus was going up and down Galilee and the surrounding countryside teaching and healing, feeding people when they were hungry and freeing people from unclean spirits and demons. Yet, the disciples were not listening to or understanding Jesus. On a couple of occasions, Jesus got upset with them He says in Mark 7:18, "Are even you likewise without understanding?" A few days later, in Mark 8:21, he says: "Do you still do not understand." It seems that a stronger response was set off in Jesus after he told his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Peter takes him aside and rebukes him. At that point, Jesus turns to Peter and says bluntly, "Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do." (Mark 8:33) After that, Jesus "summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.’" (Mark 8:34)
Sometimes God has to enter into our lives in a dramatic way to tell us to stop what we’re doing and to stop our gibberish. We need to take the time to Listen to Jesus, the Word of God, and his message given to us in the Sacraments, the Church and in the cries of the Crucified of Today. We really need to learn to listen with our minds and hearts so that we can do what we need to do as followers of Jesus.
The reason why we are not listening is because something is causing us to block God’s message to us. That would be our sin. To strip ourselves of our sinful ways is not easy. We may be able to cast aside the veneer, the façade but to do the inner work of finding the root cause of our sinful ways takes a great deal of dying to self and of taking up our cross to follow Jesus. This is ultimately a faith stance, something that we do in complete faith, not because we know the outcome, but because we just believe. It is not irrational faith, but a faith that goes beyond reason, beyond the senses, beyond the intellectual games we play to get around doing the inner work that strips us of our core sin.
We are so grateful that we follow a Jesus who knows and loves us so well, that he will not give up on us, just as he did not give up on Peter, James and John, when they were not listening. So, we do not give up. We get up. We follow Jesus. We try harder to listen to God’s Beloved Son. This is indeed our faith!
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.