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The Destination illumines the Journey

Julian Paparella

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent
What keeps us going through difficult times? What inspires our hope when the situation is bleak? What makes us persevere when it would be easier to give up?
In the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Lent, we see Jesus ascend Mount Tabor with His three closest disciples – Peter, James, and John. There He is transfigured before their eyes and they behold Him in all His glory. His face shines like the Sun; His clothes are dazzling white. It is hard to imagine how awesome this sight would be: witnessing the radiance of God!
What is the significance of such an event for us during this Lenten season? What is the significance of seeing the glory of Jesus before witnessing His agony in just a few weeks’ time? The transfiguration is a foretaste of the glory of God. It gives us a snapshot of the resurrection of Jesus that we prepare to celebrate. It shows us that Jesus is God. It reminds us that as we follow Jesus, we are not just following a man like any other, nor a wise teacher, nor even a great philosopher. In following Jesus we are truly following God.
The journey of following God is not always glorious. Peter, James, and John discover this as they experience this personally at the crucifixion of Jesus on Golgotha. A prisoner of his fear, Peter will deny even knowing Jesus. Standing at the foot of the Cross, John will see Jesus die a torturous death. James will desert Jesus and the other apostles, nowhere to be found. What a cruel contrast there is between the brilliance of Tabor and the brutality of Golgotha. Did any of them remember what they experienced on the mountaintop?
The transfiguration of Jesus shows us that there is something beyond the Cross. The glory that shone on Tabor calls us through the darkest moments to the destiny that lies beyond. The destination illumines the journey. We do not feel the same on our way to a funeral as we do on our way to redeem the winning lottery ticket. What we are heading towards changes our attitude, our outlook, our actions. What if our destination is heaven? What does it change in us if our destination is the glory of God that Peter, James, and John experienced on Mount Tabor? What if even as we experience the Cross, we are headed for glory?
So often we may take this as wishful thinking, or something taught in Sunday school for little children. But what if this is really where we’re going? What if this is not just an “opiate for the masses” or a happy thought but the true fulfillment of all our deepest hopes and longings? What if this is not just a fantasy we’ve made to make ourselves feel good, but the reason why we are here and what we were made for?
Like the soldier inspired by the hope of victory. Like the mother who labours through childbirth to receive the joy of her baby boy or girl. Like the Olympic medal spurs the athlete on to keep training, enduring, and keeping at it day in and day out. The victory of life is heaven. The labour of life is eternal joy. The medal is sharing in the glory of God. How would our lives change if we let this destination illumine our journey? How would Golgotha look differently if we remembered Tabor? Do we endure our own sufferings differently knowing that there is truly light at the end of the tunnel and if this light shines already here and now? Even on the rainiest day, the Sun still shines brightly beyond the clouds. Even in the darkest moment on earth, the glory of heaven shines brightly as ever.
If we are heading towards heaven, heaven will also break through into what we live here and now. The Kingdom of God is not only were we hope to end up eventually; it is the Reign of God that already wants to break through into our daily lives. It is the reign of peace, mercy, justice, compassion, unity, and love. It is all of us together as brothers and sisters with Jesus of our one true Father. It is the reign of taking care of one another and looking out for one another’s needs. It is the reign of bringing joy to one another, giving one another hope, and encouraging one another to persevere. Our destination shines light on the real trials and struggles that we face along the way. Heaven illumines how we live here on earth.
The transfiguration of Jesus is the glory of God touching the lives of Peter, James, and John. It is a moment that reveals hope that endures even the darkness of the Cross. May we let this glory touch our lives. May our struggles be illumined by the hope that lies before us. How awesome it is to know, even in the midst of our own Golgothas, that the destination of our journey is the glory of God.
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