This Easter, we are blessed to have several adults being baptised and others received into the Church. We have to ask, why would anyone want to enter the Catholic Church, especially at this time? The idea of faith is ridiculed in society and even more, we have been rocked by one horrendous scandal after another. Why are you and I here, for that matter?
We are here, I hope, because at some level, we have grasped what the Church is about. The institutional Church, love it or hate it, is only the visible aspect of the Mystery of the Church. It is Mystery, because it is the body of Christ. To it, Christ constantly communicates the power of his Resurrection through the Spirit who dwells among us. Where this Spirit is, there is freedom and the possibility of lives being transformed.
In Genesis, right at the beginning, the Spirit of God will descend over the
formless void, the chaos of waters. And as the voice of God is heard, over six
days, a beautiful, clearly defined creation will emerge. God would place Adam
as ruler over it, but more importantly, he would be invited to walk with God
and to trust him, that God, his Father would always give him what was good. But
Adam would fail precisely in this trust, believing the doubts planted by the
serpent. With his fall, all of creation would return to the watery mess in the
flood. But as we heard in the first reading, God’s rescue plan, will start with
Abraham, one man, who would be willing to trust God, listen to his voice and
follow him. Abraham’s trust will culminate in God freeing his descendants from
slavery and choosing them as his own.
Through them, God will begin his work of re-creation. Once again, the Spirit
of God would descend for six days on Mount Sinai. On the sixth day, Moses would
enter the cloud and receive the Law. This would be the high point of their
calling marking them as God’s people. But without the face to face friendship
with God that Moses had, the people would find that they had no capacity to
obey the law or stand continually in his presence. The Law would only serve to
show them their sins. The Psalmist would say, with wistful longing – Who
can climb the mountain of the Lord? Who can stand in his holy place? (Ps
The answer would come centuries later. Matthew notes that after six days,
recalling both the time of Creation and Sinai (a reference unfortunately missed
in our reading today), Jesus takes three of his disciples up the mountain. Only
He can ascend and take his disciples with him up the mountain. In the image of
this ascent, the Fathers of the Church frequently saw the struggle for
Christian virtue. This is the aim of our Lenten observances, to purify our
hearts. We cannot do this by brute strength; it can come only when our desire
is awakened. We think of sin usually as unfettered desire – in reality, sin
destroys desire. Ask anyone who’s been addicted to anything – drink, drugs,
pornography – do you think they enjoy it? It’s a compulsion, it enslaves, and
kills you, leaving you half-dead. It is only in the encounter with true love,
that our desire is renewed and we come alive.
Peter, James and John – precisely the disciples most conscious of Jesus’
love for them – will be the ones taken up by Jesus. Once again, the Spirit, the
cloud of glory, will descend on the mountain. For a moment, they see Jesus in
his glory; they will see Christ’s humanity, infused and overflowing with his
glory. This is not as some think, Christ setting aside his humanity so people
could see his divinity; that is nonsense. But the uncreated light of his
divinity now fills his humanity. This light is his love, his goodness; and it
will throw them back, overwhelming them. Peter, without realising, says
something very profound – it is good that we are here; recalling what
God says in creation; he saw that it was good, beautiful. In a moment, it is
over: Jesus, his glory hidden, in his humanity, comes close, touches them and
raises them up, saying, ‘Do not be afraid!’. I’m here with you.
On Tabor, in Jesus, we see what our destiny – to bear the glory of God. C.S.
Lewis used to say, that if we saw ourselves at the final judgment, we would
have one of two reactions – we would be either tempted to fall down and
worship, seeing the glory we have been given, or recoil in horror at the
hideous creature we have become. In Peter, James and John, the pillars of the
Church, all of us have been invited into that same glory, the same
relationship, which belongs by right to the Son alone. This is what the saints
achieved even in this life. They let themselves be progressively filled with
the love of God, that sometimes, even their bodies would not corrupt on death.
And here, like Adam, the Father calls us to listen, to trust his beloved Son.
Where can we encounter this? Right here in the Eucharist. This is the
mountain of God. Over the week, we climb with Christ, through the mess of our
everyday life. The saints were simply those who learnt how to live out their
baptism every day. As we come together after six days, in His light, we confess
where we have failed.
We meet Christ in the Scriptures – a living Word, the voice of the Father,
spoken over the chaos of our life. It contains a promise if we listen. If we
trust him, we can offer ourselves with all our problems, hopes and fears in the
bread and the wine. And through the invocation of the priest, the cloud of
glory descends on the altar, making all change possible. Everything offered is
transformed by the power of the Spirit into Christ himself. In communion he
gives us this, his divinised humanity. If Christ were to reveal even a little
bit of his glory in the Eucharist, like the apostles, we would fall down
terrified. But he comes to us, just like he does to them, hidden, gently
touching us in this humble bread, to raise us up. He comes to meet us in our
daily trials and afflictions, to say, I am with you, do not be afraid. Trust
me. This is the place of possibility. Here we can find hope in our struggles.
Within this cloud of glory, the watery mess of our lives can be transformed
into a watered garden. On the strength of this word, we proceed to the