Saturday, February 23, 2013


In the past several months several of our students have experienced the death of a parent or a close family member . There are enough of them that our Guidance Department has started a grief counseling group that meets during school hours.

I think of one kid in particular whose dad died within the past month. When I look at him during class I wonder what it must be like to lose you father at age fifteen. I try not to recall too vividly the overwhelming grief I felt in my mid-forties when my brother died, but I figure that for several reason this kid’s grief must be ten times worse. If that’s true, I don’t know how he survives. But yet he shows up for class every day, not always sharp and enthusiastic, but he show up. His face is an eloquent and honest statement of how he is feeling.

The gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent is Luke’s account of the transfiguration of the Lord.

While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.

It seems that this event is meant to be a foreshadowing of Jesus’ suffering and death; it offers his apostles a glimpse of his glory so that they will not completely lose faith when Christ is crucified. This morning I was reading Reginald Fuller’s commentary on this passage and this sentence caught my eye: “But the story (of the transfiguration) has been written up by the later community in the light of its Easter faith.”

The gospels tell us that his followers did not really understand the events in Jesus’ life until after the resurrection. Look at John 2:22, for instance: The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

On Palm Sunday we will hear John 12:16 tell us Jesus found an ass and sat upon it, as is written: “Fear no more, O daughter Zion; see, your king comes, seated upon an ass’s colt.” His disciples did not understand this at first, but when Jesus had been glorified they remembered that these things were written about him and that they had done this for him.

So meanwhile my students live with the pain of grief over their dead parents, living their own share of Christ’s passion without always seeing it from the post-resurrection perspective.
Of course, if we spend our lives running crazily on the surface of life we can’t expect to make any sense of the tragedies and heartbreaks that threaten at times to destroy us. This alone is enough to encourage us to follow through on St. Benedict’s suggestions for Lenten practices: read and meditate on the scriptures more, and spend more time in quiet, introspective prayer.

I think of a favorite old hymn of mine; although the melody is lovely, the words by themselves convey an important message for Lent, and indeed for life: to remember that by identifying with Christ's sufferings on Calvary, we are also partaking in his victory over death at Easter.

1. Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain—
Free to all, a healing stream—
Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

2. Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and Mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

3. Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o’er me.

4. Near the cross I’ll watch and wait
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river.

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