Gospel : Matthew 17:1-9
I absolutely believe in the power of a hug. There are few things that give as much immediate comfort as a sincere hug. And of course, there is the old saying that goes: “Seven hugs a day for good mental health.” And now we understand why there are so many problems during Covid: nobody may give hugs, anymore!
So, why do I talk about hugs?
Because, ‘Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them … and they were afraid … and Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”‘
As we are moving into Lent, we are so aware of the looming of the cross. Jesus has highlighted this to his disciples already, yet there is nothing they or we can do to change Jesus’s fate. So, knowing this as the three disciples follow Jesus up the mountain, is it any wonder that they may want to delay going back down; that they want to build booths to contain the moment of transfiguration? They want to save Jesus and themselves, no doubt, from the coming heartache, but they cannot, and nor can we.
What we can do though, is to look at what is really happening. Jesus is transfigured and compared to the timeline from the first promise of the coming of the Messiah, to this very moment where we are right now, the transfiguration is but an instant. However, what an instant it is, when we look at what follows on it: The Cross, the Resurrection and the Redemption.
Right after the transfiguration, God says, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” I wonder how often we remember the last bit, “Listen to him!” When we truly listen, we may be overcome with fear as well, but what is the first thing that Jesus does after the Transfiguration? He touches his disciples, and he says, “Get up and do not be afraid.”
However, to get to the Redemption, they have to get down the mountain; out of that moment of immense wonder into reality and ordinary life. Is it any wonder the disciples wanted to build shelters so that they could stay longer?
I think that in the same way that the disciples wanted to stay in the moment, maybe because it was perceived as safe, we’re also often seduced in maintaining the status quo in our present circumstances, because the alternatives are just too hard to contemplate. What are our comfort zones, what are the booths that we have built so that we do not have to cope with the unknown, that which we do not want to see or hear? That which will lead to resurrection and redemption? How do we tell each other to not be afraid?
How about a hug?
I’m convinced that after Jesus touched his disciples and when they got up, he hugged them, and then told them not to be afraid. How can we be afraid if someone is holding us in a loving embrace? This may give us the courage to look just a little bit higher and a little bit farther, and we may see beyond our immediate cross and see what wonders God has in store for us. All in this life comes to end so that there can be a new beginning. We have to be willing to enter into our own transfiguration.
In the same way I believe our transfiguration moments happen in the small things; for example, when we give a hug and when we receive a hug, we can also see the light of resurrection and redemption.
I think we should look for the moment when transfiguration happens in our own lives. Jesus’s transfiguration happens on a biblical scale, but we can only work on a human scale. Does anything banish our fears more perfectly than simple, human touch, accompanied by a kind word? Do not be afraid.
How can we be responsible for our neighbours’ and our own transfiguration? We need not have clouds and voices from heaven; something as small as a warm, sincere hug can very often be the thing that shifts our gaze so that we can see with new eyes and actually hear God’s voice when he says to Jesus, and to us, “This is my child, my beloved; with whom I am well pleased.”
So, get up, do not be afraid, and hug someone. Amen