“Rise and do not be afraid!”

Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord

6 August 2017

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. His face shone like the sun and his clothing became white as light. And Behold, Moses and Elijah appeared conversing with Jesus. Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord it is good that we are here. If you wish I can make three tents; one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”   While Peter was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they went prostrate and were very much afraid. Jesus came to them and touched them saying, “Rise and do not be afraid.” When they raised their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus alone. Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9

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IMG_5979Every time we come to the Eucharist, we go up the mountain and experience the transfiguration and the glory of God. Sometimes our clouds of anxiety, depression, fear, addictions or worldly affairs prevent us from seeing the love of God. That is so sad.

I am a licensed mental health counselor and I counsel part time at a psychiatric hospital in Jacksonville. Many of the people have serious addictions that require treatment plans and a commitment to sobriety. It is like some of the things that we fast from during lent. Many of us give up sugar with a secret benefit of losing weight. There is nothing wrong with that, except after Lent we begin to realize that nothing has changed and it sometimes gets worse. We relapse and fail to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

When we listen to Jesus and do a fast that he suggests, we would be foolish to stop that fast after Easter Sunday. God is very clear in saying, “This, rather is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly; setting free the oppressed, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.” In other words, Jesus is taking us up the mountain with Peter, James and John to undergo a reality check. At Queen of Peace in Gainesville they say: “The Mass never ends, we take it with us. Thanks be to God.” After Mass today, we are changed forever. We have heard the Word of God! When an addict quits drugs, alcohol, or internet porn, they can never go back. If they do, we call it relapse. Most addicts go through many relapses before they find total peace and sobriety. We do it one day at a time and humbly admit our weakness.

In order to heal we ask addicts to go to anonymous meetings (90 meetings in 90 days). This is so they can replace a bad habit with a good habit. (Lent and Easter combined can transfigure us, but most of us stop after 40 days and neglect the 50 days of Easter to listen to Jesus for 90 days). It is like seat-belts. Why do we wear seat-belts? Some will say safety, but when I was a kid we didn’t have seat-belts in the car. We knew wearing a seat-belt increased the chances of surviving an accident, but we didn’t take it serious until the introduction of an annoying ding, blue lights in our rear-view mirror, or slogans like, “click it or ticket”. The mountain transfiguration with Jesus is a wake-up call to take this Eucharist seriously, to listen to Jesus. Eternal life depends on it.

When I look at the group of men or women before me, they are detoxed from their destructive behavior. They are balanced. Sometimes I play my flute and ask them to breathe in… and breathe out… After I play, it seems that their anxiety and depression are momentarily balanced and they seem quite normal. I believe they are normal. We all need depression to sleep and we all need anxiety to wake up. It is when they are out of balance that trouble snowballs. They need to take this calm and serenity out into the world even when they are triggered or tempted. We must stay calm when we encounter the Cross.

We are like a little toddler having a temper tantrum because Mom is weaning the child off of breast milk. The key to recovery of any addiction, including getting into bad relationships, is to wean our selves off. Even if an alcoholic misses an AA meeting, he or she will be fine if he simply puts on the seat-belt of sobriety in the morning. All of us need to be weaned off of worldly things and mean it when we say, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We need to go up the mountain and then listen to God asking us to listen to his Beloved Son.

Beloved, this Eucharist must somehow further the mission of Jesus and not our own pursuits. Our partaking of the Body and Blood of Jesus must always be good news for the poor, the oppressed, the homeless and the addicted. Jesus in me tells me to continue to visit those imprisoned by addictions and to be an instrument of God’s peace to console, to understand and to love. In the book, The Imitation of Christ, we hear, “Jesus has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His Cross. He has many seekers of consolation, but few of tribulation. He finds many companions at His feasting, but few of His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him; few are willing to endure anything for Him. Many follow Jesus as far as the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the cup of His Passion. Many reverence His miracles, but few will follow the shame of His Cross. Many love Jesus as long as no adversities befall them. But if Jesus hides Himself and leaves them but for a brief time, they begin to complain or become overly despondent in mind.” (Thomas A Kempis)

Jesus is trying to wean us so that we too hear God’s voice, “You are my Beloved”

We all must wrestle with God from time to time, just like a child being weaned wrestles with its mother.  So when Jesus comes to us and touches us, let’s listen to him…

“Rise and do not be afraid!”

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Daniel 7:9-14 ~ As the visions during the night continued, I saw:

Psalm 97 ~ The heavens proclaim his justice, and all peoples see his glory

2 Peter 1:16-19 ~ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.

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