Sometimes we are given the opportunity to enjoy the company of someone we truly admire, maybe someone famous, or well-known in a particular field. Just being able to sit and listen to them; just to be near them, can make us feel pretty important. At those times we almost hate to have to tear ourselves away; we just want to stay there and ‘drink it all in’. We don’t want to leave – and we are almost fearful that something or someone will come along and cause this moment to end.
In this week’s passage from St. Mark’s Gospel, we are transported to Mount Tabor. Jesus takes with him his closest friends, Saints Peter, James and John. While they are gathered there, Jesus shows them his true nature; his glorified body – He is dazzling like the sun; and besides this, the prophets Moses and Elijah appear and are talking to Jesus. Moses and Elijah, showing that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, the long-awaited Messiah; St. Peter says, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here,” and offers to make three tents, shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.
Although Peter says, “it is good for us to be here” he is afraid. He is so afraid, in fact, that when he offers to make these tents, the Gospel tells us that he really doesn’t know what he is saying. Even before God the Father makes his presence known by the cloud, the apostles are afraid; perhaps their fear is at some sense of being in the presence of such glory and holiness, believing that they are not worthy of being in such company. Perhaps they are afraid that they cannot remain in the presence of this glorious and holy company, and that is why Peter wants to build shelters, to keep them near as if he can somehow have some kind of control in this situation.
Surrendering control is one of the most difficult things for all of us. It seems to run contrary to our human nature, to be ‘masters of our own destiny’. The truth is, though, that we really don’t control much of anything, which is so obvious in our current circumstances. None of us has any influence on whether the sun shines or the sky pours forth rain. We may have some influence over opinions, but we cannot control how people think, act or behave. I have no guarantees that I will be drawing breath ten minutes from now, nor do I have any control over the movement of the Holy Spirit. But to admit we have no control to ourselves, can be a fearful thing.
There is something we do have control over though. We control our response to God’s love. God invites us to share in that same glory that Jesus displayed on Mount Tabor; but to do that, we have to conform our will to God’s will. And that means surrendering our will, basing our decisions every day, not on what we want, but rather on what God expects. That means not having control, but surrendering control in order to imitate Christ, especially in His humanity. That imitation comes when we serve Him in our brothers and sisters, particularly the poor, the marginalized, the most vulnerable in our society. That imitation comes when we seek the will of God; when we are detached from anything that separates us from God, anything that prevents us from being open to the work of grace in our lives.
But we need to, like the Apostles, overcome that fear of surrender. It says in the Gospel that when this episode was over, and the Apostles looked up, they saw Jesus ‘alone’. There was no one else present – all of the visions, and the voices, the clouds and the glory had gone, and there was Jesus ‘alone’ still with them. . He was with them in the midst of the wonder, and the glory and the questions. He was with them in their fear.
And He is with us in our fear and our doubt; His presence among us, gives us strength. The strength we receive from God through the gift of His Son, through this boundless love of God is only limited by our ability to be open to receive it. Our ability to recognize Christ glorified in each other is only limited by the depth of our own desire to seek Him. If we have truly served our brothers and sisters, with our whole hearts, we have served Christ. And if we have served Christ, we have seen Christ…and it is ‘good for us to be’ there.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!