Our life can be an experience of desolation and consolation. There are ebbs and flows in which we experience trials and also celebrate joys. The key to living a life of faith is to see God in both experiences. Jesus today provides an opportunity for Peter, James, and John, the inner circle of the Twelve, to experience an expression of his divinity as “he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them” (Mk 9:2-3). Jesus revealed his divine nature to his disciples in a powerful display to prepare them for the Passion that he was about to enter into. The experience is also a foreshadowing of the Resurrection.
Jesus invites us to experience the Transfiguration, the Passion, and the Resurrection in our own lives. We can miss a transfigured moment, when we assume a posture of pride, not acknowledging God’s leading by believing we achieved or arrived at our present station in life on our own merits. We can experience moments of transfiguration when we acknowledge that God breaks into our lives at that moment when we needed him the most and recognize the assistance he has given us, and/or when he has revealed to us the path and direction we were to take. The natural response is to offer prayers of thanksgiving, recognizing that we don’t go it alone, that God and those he sends to help us are a tremendous support.
Jesus does not abandon us but is present in our desolations. Many of us run from our suffering, we are afraid of the cross. But it is through the cross that we come to experience the resurrection. We may not be aware, but when we run away from our suffering we are running away from Jesus who awaits us with arms wide open in our suffering, to comfort us, heal us, and transform us. But to embrace Jesus, we need to be willing to embrace our suffering. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not advocating that we go and look for suffering or bring it upon ourselves. We live in a fallen world, we will experience plenty of suffering.
The older I get, the crucifix becomes more and more a consolation. This icon of Jesus, his body broken, emptied out for us on the cross represents how he entered into and took upon himself the full range of our human condition. He assumed our sin, pride, fear, and selfishness, and transformed the worst of our fallen nature through his love such that we are offered the gift of redemption. Jesus does not define us by our worst mistakes. The crucifix is not a sign of despair, but of hope, reminding us that no matter what we go through Jesus has experienced it also and will be present with us.
Looking at Jesus on the Cross has provided me with moments of hope, that illness or even death does not have the final answer in this life. As he looks down from the cross he was willing to be nailed to, he continues to be willing to draw close to us and love us in our weaknesses, failures, illness, mourning, and pain. His arms are wide open inviting us to bring our heavy burdens to lay them at his feet, so that we may be healed, renewed, and transformed by the love he has for us, shown in his act of giving his life for us. Let us allow Jesus to love us so we may love ourselves and others into and through our consolations and the desolations.
Photo: Crucifix in the main sanctuary of Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Retreat Center, Palm Beach Gardens, FL.