At that time, Jesus took Peter, James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them. And His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as snow. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking together with Him. Then Peter addressed Jesus, saying, Lord, it is good for us to be here. If You will, let us set up three tents here, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elias. As he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear Him. And on hearing it the disciplines fell on their faces and were exceedingly afraid. And Jesus came near and touched them, and said to them, Arise, and do not be afraid. But lifting up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus cautioned them, saying, Tell the vision to no one, till the Son of Man has risen from the dead.
This isn’t the first time in scripture that the voice of God booms out over the land and started out by saying, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” The first was after Jesus was baptized, and there were crowds of people on the banks of the Jordan. In that instance, it’s not described what exactly the crowds did–but here, we might have a glimpse of what happened.
Terror. Fight, flight, or freeze.
The Beloved Master has transformed into bright radiant light, two prophets of old manifest beside Him, and they speak together. What was that conversation like? What was it like, as the disciples afterwards, to have that conversation with the others:
“He spoke with Moses! Moses!!! and Elias! They conversed!”
“What did they say?”
A pause. A horrible, horrible pause.
“We can’t recall. We were to afraid. We cowered in fear.”
And to hold the secret, knowing it could not be told until Jesus, the One they loved, was killed. And perhaps doubting in the beginning when He spoke about being killed, yet now realizing that He must be telling the truth–and wanting to doubt that because of how safe they felt with Him, how assured they were with Him.
In our Lenten fast, we will and are confronted by fear like this. It disguises itself in voices that say “You don’t really need to abstain” or “do we really need to be that charitable? It’s going to put us out” or maybe something even more simple like reacting in anger to something trivial, or loosing patience.
Then we enter loathing. We use the loathing as a crutch to continue to abstain from our abstaining…and on and on it goes.
Yet, when we take an opportunity to break from the cycle, to look up and to see Christ, He tells us:
Arise. Do not be afraid.
He says this as if the transgressions we were so magnified in don’t exist, or exist so small that they are only thought of in the scope of a grain of sand.
The snowball effect of guilt is the door that opens to negative deprecation of our selves. Rather than reduce our egos to be closer to God, it feeds our egos and pulls us further away.
Jesus tells us to stand. To not be afraid. And to continue to walk on.
This is the Sacrifice of the Cross. This is the sharing of the Eucharist. This is the absolution of Confession, the waters of Baptism, the anointing with Holy Oils. This is the Blessing, the sign of the Cross.
These things, to those outside of our faith, are rituals. To those of us who struggle to keep hold of our faith, to those of us grounded in the bedrock of our faith, these are the words of Christ: Rise. Do not be afraid. I am with you. Walk on.