The most comforting words of the Transfiguration read at Mass this past Sunday. They were not what you might think they’d be for this practicing Catholic, with numerous Lents under her belt. When, in times gone by, she had pondered the glory on that mountain top, the struggle of coming down again, the radiance of her savior, the marvel of all those great people gathered in one place.
The moment of the Transfiguration, of the many things Peter, James and John took in during their ministry with Jesus, had to be among the greatest. Second only to the resurrection.
So, in other years, I’m sure the Gospel will grab me such again. But not this year. Not this year, when I seem to be very concerned with getting things right. Not this Lent, when I find myself ultra-focused on my actions – on my mistakes and how I might attempt to undo them, or pray out of them, or convince others to forget them. Not this spring, when I so desperately want to be “on track”. To be sure not to miss anything. When teenage children make me feel in a visceral way the passing of time, like wind on my skin. I so desperately want to get things right!
I realize that I have a distorted sense of responsibility when it comes to God. For some reason I have this impression that I can mess Him up. That by some misstep of mine, I can waylay His plans. That I may say something or do something or point someone on an errant path, and by doing so, change the course of the Almighty’s grand design. It is my greatest fear. This struggle between my free will and God’s almighty power.
So, when sitting in my pew last Sunday, my oldest daughter’s long blonde hair brushing my shoulder, I wait to be bolstered up. I know why I am there. There is no question. I wait for God to act, to speak.
I wait for reassurance.
The Gospel is proclaimed. The Transfiguration. Ah, yes. I know this one. I begin to fade away, imagining the nice glowing mountain top and stunned-to-silence apostles. But I didn’t completely drift away.
Because something struck me that I just hadn’t noticed before.
Here we go: Luke 9:32-33
“Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’
BUT HE DID NOT KNOW WHAT HE WAS SAYING.
While he was still speaking…”
He did now know what he was saying. He did not know what he was saying?
Peter? St. Peter. The first pope. The Rock on who Jesus would build the Church. Peter didn’t know what he was talking about.
Peter had this grand idea that thrilled him. He went to Jesus with His plans, his determined thoughts, a perfect scenario in which he could envision all kinds of good. “Let’s DO this, Lord!”
(does this sound at all familiar?)
But St. Luke simply tells us that Peter did not know what he was saying.
Did this stop the will of God? Did Jesus turn around and say, “Wait! What did you say? That was NOT what I had planned at all. I need to sit down and think now. I’m not sure what to do next…”
Did he get angry, rewind the good progress already made? Did he lecture or punish or inflict guilt? He may have smiled and shook his head like an amused Father. But that’s all.
Because, while we are called to cooperate with God’s will, to discern it each day, to pray that we align our life to His plans, that DOES NOT mean that we are responsible for His will.
As one of my favorite nuns tells me often, “Jesus already saved the world, He does not need us to do so.”
And then, for the second lesson: Luke 9:33
“He did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking…”
Jesus didn’t even hesitate to move forward. Peter’s fumble didn’t even cause him to pause. You can imagine Jesus putting his finger to His lips, to quiet the man. And then He proceeded forward as He had planned all along.
On that mountaintop, Jesus become glorified before their eyes. This is a great miracle.
But for me, the smaller miracle speaks. The simple reminder that I can place my trust in Him. I can move forward, plan, act, pray and love, and totally mess up, trusting in Him all the while. I mean really trust – placing all my faith in Him and his great love for me. If I go off track, if I completely miss the point, if I sound like a doddering fool, He’ll just keep on moving, bringing me with Him.
So I lift up all these things. These people, projects, problems, passions – and I lift them up to God. I entrust them to you, Lord, knowing that you are greater than all, and that you will not let me get in your way. Even when I don’t know what I am saying.
In your great love, Lord, I am everything. But in comparison with your power, I am nothing. And this makes me glad.
Jesus, I trust in you.