A few years ago, a television ad highlighted mountain climbing. At the summit, a young woman perched on the peak gazes over the spectacular view thousands of feet below. Each time I watched, my stomach became queasy, as one slip would certainly plunge her to death. Yet extreme climbers assert the view is worth the risk as they feel more alive and see with greater clarity.
In scriptural terms, our ancestors climbed mountains to encounter the presence of God. As they ascended, the veil of mystery split and clarity occurred. Each encounter resulted in a changed—transfigured—way of seeing, thinking, being. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus is transfigured, altered in appearance, to grant His disciples spiritual clarity. Peter, James, and John were in desperate need of clear mindedness concerning Jesus’ identity and mission.
Six days earlier, Jesus informed the disciples of His imminent suffering and death. Peter rejected this harsh reality and instead suggested they build three tents to retreat in safety. Stubborn and fearful, Peter, James, and John’s understanding of Jesus and the cost of discipleship required a shocking transformation: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly, ... be killed, and rise after three days. ... Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mk 8).
As we see Jesus with greater clarity, the more clearly we understand God, ourselves, and the world. It often takes a monumental event—birth, sickness, death—to jolt us out of our conventional, even muddied, ways of seeing and living. Moments of clarity reveal God—extreme beauty, goodness, and truth—through profound joy, loss, suffering, and even death.
After my first ascent through labor, I gazed upon our newborn baby and could not believe how much I loved her. My thoughts turned to my own parents: Had they loved me this much? The answer: Of course, they have given me life, unconditional love, and everything else! And God: Yes, God loves us infinitely more; He gave His only begotten Son for us. Parental love is extreme, crazy, protective, and sacrificial. This moment of clarity forever transfigured my stance in life: I was to live for our daughter—not for self. I was to live for God—not for self.
One can imagine Abraham trudging up Mount Moriah, with grim determination, to sacrifice his son, Isaac. In this extreme call to faith, perhaps Abraham received a profound moment of clarity—God loved Isaac even more than he did. Therefore, Abraham could trust God with his only beloved son—his life and his death.
As parents/grandparents, we name grace—God’s revealing presence—when we help our children understand the truth of Jesus. A moment of clarity may occur when praising God for the beauty of a sunrise, experiencing Jesus when loved beyond measure, seeing Jesus in a downtrodden person, or recognizing Jesus as fully alive and present in the Eucharist.
Lent offers mountaintop experiences through extreme prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. When climbing steep mountains and in need of clarity, “Listen to Him.” For God, “who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all,” is worthy of our extreme trust, and “will give us everything else along with Him.” Now, that’s good news!
When have you experienced a moment of clarity? How did it transfigure your way of seeing?
How will you help your child see Jesus more clearly?
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.