Following Elijah and Moses

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February 25, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

February 25, 2018
Mark 9:2-10
Fr. George Smiga

A famous musician was debuting a new work which he had just written for the piano. As he struck the last chord, the audience rose to their feet applauding in appreciation. A reporter from a local paper came to interview the musician. “That was an amazing new piece,” he said. “But can you explain to me what this music is about? What it means to you?” The musician looked at the reporter for a long time in silence, and then he sat down and played the piece all over again.

This was probably his way of saying that music cannot be explained. It must be heard. Indeed, some of the deepest mysteries of our life cannot be analyzed. They need to be experienced. This is certainly true of our relationship with God. We cannot explain God or understand who God is. But we can have experiences in our life where, for a moment, we catch a glimpse of God’s goodness and God’s glory. This is Mark’s aim in today’s gospel of the Transfiguration of Jesus. He fills the scene with mysterious elements such as the dazzling white clothes, the cloud that overshadows the disciples, and the voice that comes from the heavens. All of these are in the story because Mark knows that we cannot explain Jesus’ glory, we can only embrace it.   

Yet despite the fact that Mark would insist that the glory of Christ cannot be analyzed or packaged, he does leave clues in this story of how Jesus’ glory can be repeated. He uses the two characters of Elijah and Moses to point to ways in which we can experience the glory of Christ in our own lives. In the First Book of Kings, Elijah experiences God’s presence on the holy mountain of Horeb. Although Elijah expects to experience God in thunder and in lightening, God comes to him in a quiet whispering sound. So, the experience of Elijah tells us that we can find the glory of God in the small but true blessings of our lives, the blessings that we experience every day. As we watch our children or grandchildren play, as we catch a smile from our spouse whom we have loved for years, as a particular melody warms our heart or the beauty of a full moon deepens our soul, as laughter comes easily with a friend who knows us better than we know ourselves—all of these small and common blessings are signs of God’s love and glimpses of God’s glory.

The character of Moses points in a different direction. Moses experienced God’s presence on Mount Sinai when he received the gift of the law. The law was God’s gift to Israel. It gave direction to serving God through the service of others. So, the experience of Moses tells us that we can find the glory of God as we reach out to serve our neighbor. As we try to help out the member of our family who is the most discouraged or misunderstood, as we give of ourselves in service of the poor or teach a child to read, as we speak out for the marginalized in our society: immigrants, the imprisoned, or those who are victim of violence—in each of these actions we are not simply helping others in need, we are catching a glimpse of the love of God that expresses itself in our love for one another. God’s love tells us that every person is a beloved daughter or son.

The glory of God cannot be explained. It must be experienced. But the characters of Elijah and Moses point to where those experiences can be found. So, in this holy time of Lent, let us rededicate ourselves to follow Elijah by noticing the blessings that surround us and to follow Moses by reaching out to those who are in need. In these two ways we can come to see the love that God has for us and catch a glimpse of the glory that shines in the face of the Transfigured Christ.

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