As we begin a new calendar year and enter more fully into the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we might make a resolution to better keep the Great Commandments to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. Sometimes we can separate the two without knowing it. Jesus declared that they must go together.
Have you ever had an experience so powerful, so moving, so breathtaking that you never wanted it to end? Where there are no words adequate to describe it? Perhaps it was a special moment with someone close to you, the birth of a child, the achievement of a difficult goal, a sunset, or the tender presence of a friend in time of need.
It is those moments and memories of them that can keep us going through the thousands of other moments of life not so moving. Often they are moments of love and encouragement that give us hope, real hope, not the surface hope so talked about in our day.
One for me was when I was ordained a priest. Part of the ritual is for those being ordained to prostrate themselves on the floor while the litany of the saints is chanted: “St. Catherine, pray for us, Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us, Mary, mother of God, pray for us”. Now we can add Saint John Paul II and soon Saint Mother Teresa, saints from our own day.
Anxious about where God was leading me, it was a humbling and uplifting experience that reminded me and reminds me still, that in my priesthood I am not alone. The saints of God will come to my aid, and yours. I remember it vividly and that memory gives me hope.
Another was at my ordination as a bishop. The Book of Gospels is held over the head of the one being ordained almost as a roof, a source of protection. It too was humbling and uplifting. I remember it still and it gives me hope. Today I understand its power more deeply as the Gospel of life.
The stories and the witness of the saints are powerful sources of hope. I think especially of the first apostles. It must have been difficult being a disciple of Jesus, to travel with him and experience the mounting hostility, the carping criticism and the negative attitudes. What a strain to stand by while he was called a hypocrite, a blasphemer, a violator of the Law. Many turned away from him; his words were hard to accept. Many turn away in our day as well.
Surely reading their hearts Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain. As those who have been there know, the likely Mt. Tabor is a steep rise in the midst of a flat plain. One can see for miles from its top. The beauty, the calm, the peace of the place were very different from the turmoil and antagonism the disciples met below.
Imagine the reassurance they felt when Jesus stood before them, transfigured, revealing his divine nature, his face shining like the sun, his clothes white as light. Further assurances for them were those standing with him, the revered Moses the Law giver and the great prophet Elijah. It was so good, so reassuring that Peter did not want to leave. “Let us build three tents here.” And who could blame him.
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