In his book of reflections – ‘My Sour-Sweet Days’ – on the poetry of George Herbert, Mark Oakley says, “So often we need to be redeemed not just from our belongings but also from who we have become.” This sentence resonates with me as I read the first paragraph of this Sunday’s reading from Genesis 12, “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you.’” It was this call of Abram that sent me on the Camino nine years ago and, because I am a perpetual pilgrim in this world, I am ever attracted by the prospect of leaving and going.
Of course, it’s not always a physical leaving but the internal leaving of oneself, leaving who I have become. Not that we have necessarily become bad or anything but we need to move on, progress further along the path marked out for us. We need to move and not become stuck in our way of being.
The call of Abram is lived out again in the lives of Peter, James and John when Jesus takes them on the journey up Mount Tabor. And, as He took them, so too He takes me, takes us upwards. It’s like we are called to leave for a while our ordinary, hum-drum way of existing, to leave behind our lower and more base instincts and go up with Him to the Mount of Transfiguration; to experience the truth of who Jesus is and to glimpse in Him who I am to become.
“This is my Son the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:1-9). Our future hope is shaped by listening to Him, to His Word, allowing ourselves to be informed and formed by Him in mind, heart and soul. And this is probably one of the greatest challenges for us – we don’t want to take on thoughts or ideas that differ from what suits us. We would like God to adjust to our way of thinking and doing. We don’t really want to have to adjust to Him, we don’t want the kind of interior change that such adjustment would involve. It is easier to stay at the foot of the mountain but that’s not where Transfiguration takes place.
When we dare go up with Jesus in prayer, then there is hope of transformation, a transformation that brings us back to our ordinary lives with new vision, new hope and a new way of being. A new way of treating each other, a better way of treating the stranger.
Question that crosses my mind – what do I need to leave behind in order to go up with Jesus? Does my encounter with Jesus positively affect the way I treat others. Do I go out from Mass and have arguments with others as if Jesus makes no difference? Do I as a child or an adult mock or taunt or even bully others as if I didn’t know Jesus? I asked the children the other day, “if Jesus came into the room as a boy and sat down among you, how would you treat Him? Would you laugh at him, make fun of him, treat him badly?” And they all said no, they would be kind Him. And I said, “that’s how we need to treat each other.” All the time to the best of our ability.