In last week's gospel, Jesus was in the desert. In today’s gospel, Jesus is located on a mountaintop. The distinctiveness of the geographical references aren’t lost on me as we enter more fully into our Lenten journey this year. From desert to mountaintop there is a definite implication of territory to be traversed, of transition from one place to another. The clear implication, of course, is that living discipleship in faithfulness to Jesus Christ is more of a journey than it is a state of being.
It was three years ago, at about this time of the year, that we placed words over the doors to the church, near the baptismal font. They read: Embracing God’s People - Equipping Disciples - Accompanying Believers. They are writ high over our doors as a reminder to us that whenever we take our leave from the Eucharistic Table, we are co-missioned in the work of Jesus himself. We are called to embrace God’s people wherever and however we find them. We are called to equip ourselves (and others) for this work of witnessing to Christ, to this work of continuing the mission and ministry of Jesus in the world. We are called to walk with and to accompany one another, supporting one another as we make our pilgrim journey through life.
Three years on, it’s not a bad idea to reflect on the progress we have made as a parish community in integrating these ideas into both our individual and communal life?
In our first reading today, we hear of the call of Abraham. God has a purpose for this man of Ur who is to become the Patriarch of generations of believers. God has a purpose for each one of us too. That purpose is to be gradually revealed to Abraham as he undertakes his journey. He does not know for sure where he is destined to end up. He does not know the paths and ways along which he will journey. He does not know whether the journey will be safe. Nonetheless, Abraham places his trust in the purpose that he believes God has for him, and so sets out with all his family, to journey into the life destined for him by God. He embraces God’s will with a trust and a certain sense of abandon, which might well have caused everyone who knew him to be worried for him and to question his sanity. Still, Abraham opens himself up to God’s embrace and sets out on a journey that would eventually see him come to be called the Patriarch of Nations.
This embrace of God, of the journey, and of all those whom Abraham meets along the way whom he counts as blessings from God, is affirmed in the second letter to Timothy today. The author reminds us that we can rely on the strength of God, that God has “saved us and called us to a holy life,” a particular life in Christ. Growth in our discipleship of Jesus does not always come without hardship. Truth told, when we find ourselves working to conform our lives to that of Christ in this modern age, we encounter the same resistance experience by all the generations of faith who have gone before us. Consider that there is no shortage of names of martyrs who have literally given their lives for their faith in Jesus. We can endure and pass through hardships precisely because Jesus “destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” In truth we have little to fear.
In our gospel, as we read and listen to the narrative of the Transfiguration, we hear in the words that describe the narrative, of friends walking together. Together they have climbed the mountain. Together they have prayed on the mountain. Together they have a singular experience on the mountain. Together they have their minds and hearts opened to recognize and the incredible grace of God that visit with them on the mountain. Together. Their accompaniment of one another allows them to experience all these amazing and wonderful things, that likely they couldn’t have experienced had they been alone. Sharing companionship in the journey of faith is an integral aspect of the life of the disciple of Jesus. It’s not for nothing that Jesus gathered people around him to accompany him and to journey with him. It’s not for nothing that Jesus fostered companionship in his own life and ministry. It’s not for nothing that he sends his disciples on mission, not alone, but accompanied by another. It’s not for nothing that the Church has always, from its beginnings, endeavored to foster community and to remind us all of our need for one another. No believer should ever find themselves alone, but on the contrary, we seek to be accompanied by - and to accompany - others who walk the paths of faith and life.