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Troubles on the road to Easter

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40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Recipe for the Soul, Lent II-B, 25 February 2024
Genesis 22:1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18 ><}}}}*> Romans 8:31-34 ><}}}}*> Mark 9:2-10
Photo by Ms. Analyn Dela Torre, 12 February 2024 in Bgy. Caypombo, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

While praying our gospel this Second Sunday in Lent, the song Yesterday by the Beatles kept playing at the back of my mind, especially the first two stanzas that say:

Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away.
Now it looks as though they're here to stay.
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be.
There's a shadow hanging over me.
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

Written by Paul McCartney and recorded by the Beatles in 1965, Yesterday is a sad love song about break up that greatly changed the lost lover who was “Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be.”

Beautiful music, beautiful lyrics on this beautiful Sunday with another beautiful gospel as Mark leads us from the wilderness last week to Mount Tabor with Jesus Christ and his three disciples whose experiences were like the Beatles in Yesterday.

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.

Mark 9:2-3

Basilica of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, Israel from custodia.org.

See how the three apostles were overjoyed with the sight of Jesus transfigured, conversing with Moses and Elijah with Peter feeling so “high” that he offered to make three tents for them to remain there. It was the same experience of joy in the Beatles’ Yesterday when McCartney had that great feeling of being loved he thought would last forever.

But, both moments of joy were so brief with the transfiguration cut off immediately after Peter had spoken while McCartney felt his troubles came “suddenly”.

Like his account of Christ’s temptation last Sunday, Mark’s version of the transfiguration is so short unlike those by Matthew and Luke; however, Mark never lost attention to important details that showed the solemnity of the scene from start to finish despite a sudden shift in the mood as they went down the mountain.

As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

Mark 9:9-10

For Mark, the transfiguration of Jesus led the disciples to deepen their faith in Jesus amid his growing mystery especially in the light of his oft-repeated Passion, Death and Resurrection, as if telling us of the many troubles ahead on the road to Easter.

Hence, it is no coincidence that like the transfiguration, Mark ended abruptly his gospel account when Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome saw an angel who spoke to them inside the empty tomb of Jesus very early on Easter: Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid (Mk. 16:8). Both in the transfiguration and in the Resurrection, the disciples were dared to reflect deeply on those events that later enabled them to make a firm response in their faith in Christ.

Mosaic inside the Basilica of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, Israel from commons.wikimedia.org..

The same thing applies to us today. Many troubles lie ahead our lives, inviting us to follow Jesus more closely in prayers and reflections to find the meanings and lessons of life’s light and darkness, joy and sadness, triumph and defeat, even of death that keep on hovering above us, even enveloping us at times. We need to deepen our faith in God who had sent us his Son Jesus never stops doing to be our companion in this journey of life especially when we are passing through mountains and valleys, rivers and seas. In the song Yesterday, McCartney sang of our most common experience of having loved and lost yet taught us so much lessons in life. And music.

One thing was clear with the Apostles – and McCartney too – that even though troubles and problems were always with them along the way, they just lived through it and made the most out of them like the Church, including a classic love song!

How about us today, what is our faith response to the many darkness and light we have gone through in life’s journey?

Photo by Roger Buendia/Presidential Museum and Library via esquiremag.ph.

It is always easy to blame others for our many woes in life as we fail to see our own moments of transfiguration. Jesus gifts us with a personal transfiguration event to make us better to be like him but, do we welcome or, run away from them?

Today is the 38th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution when we must ask ourselves how we have personally responded to that great moment of grace from God, a transfiguration in itself, a pasch like the Lord’s. Have we truly valued EDSA 1986, until now?

How unfortunate that EDSA now stands for everything that is wrong with us, especially our wrong choices and wrong decisions in the past 38 years. EDSA invites us to examine our very selves as a Filipino and as a Christian, a disciple of Christ.

Photo from iStockphoto.com of Mount Tabor in Israel where Jesus is believed to have transfigured.

At his transfiguration, Jesus showed the inseparability of the mystery of the Cross and of his glory on Easter, the closeness of Mount Tabor with Golgotha. The mountain in the bible is always a coming to God, a communion in him.

Every nature lover knows very well the mountain is life itself, difficult to climb, easy to descend. Here now is the beautiful part of the gospel. And song Yesterday. Mountains surely change us but the choice is ours if we want to become better or bitter.

Set on what is believed to be Mount Tabor, the transfiguration was a passage, a foretaste of Christ’s pasch that not only brought him to his glory but transformed too the whole human race and the world itself. In the same manner, McCartney expressed poetically in Yesterday his transformation when “Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be.”

From en.wikipedia.org.

This is the good news of this Sunday: every mountain in life is a grace of transfiguration, of being better persons than before. We never come out – or down – the same persons every time we enter through whatever passages or climb any mountain in life. We are always changed, we always emerge different than who we were before after each passages we came through in life.

God gives us the grace and power to choose to be better and stronger, wiser and holier than bitter or resentful with every trials we hurdle in life. This was the experience of Abraham in the first reading when he completely trusted God who asked him to offer his son Isaac on a mountain. It was a very tough test for Abraham who waited in his old age to have a son only to be sacrificed later? But Abraham never doubted God that he still went up the mountain, and as he was about to sacrifice Isaac, an angel stopped him, telling him how God was so delighted with his faith and obedience that he was eventually blessed abundantly after.

Each of us is passing through different trials at this very moment. Many times we feel we suffer more than others, that our tests are tougher than the rest. It is useless and a waste of time to compare ourselves with others. One thing is clear: God does not stop doing something good for us in Jesus, ensuring we get better each day than yesterday. Let the words of St. Paul today assure us that “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not give us everything else along with him? (Rom. 8:31-32)” Have a blessed week ahead, fellow traveler in Christ! Let us pray:

God our loving Father,
thank you for the gift of 
this Season of Lent so we may
experience more your Son
Jesus Christ's coming to us
in this journey of life,
our companion amid the
darkness and light
and many troubles 
including the little deaths
we experience in life;
give us the faith and trust
of Abraham to offer you those
 dearest to us because 
if ever you ask something from us, 
it is to make more room in ourselves
for your abounding grace 
and gifts of transformation 
in Christ Jesus with Mary, 
our Lady of Fatima.
Amen.
This Sunday, 25 February 2024, is also the Canonical Coronation of the National Pilgrim Image of Fatima here in Valenzuela City, the very image raised at EDSA in 1986. Photo from cbcp.net.
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