There was a young boy named Rocky Dennis. You may have heard about him, his life was once loosely depicted in the film, Mask. Rocky had a rare disease that caused his skull and bones in his face to grow larger than they should. His face was misshapen and disfigured, and people would avoid him.
He went to an amusement park with friends. In the House of Mirrors, his friends all laughed at how distorted their bodies and faces looked, but when Rocky looked into the trick mirrors, it is different. The mirror distorts his face in such a way that it appears normal, conventionally handsome, and for the first time Rocky’s friends see him in a whole new way. They see from the outside what he is on the inside, a fine young man.
Something like this happens to Jesus in today’s Gospel. During this transfiguration Jesus’ Disciples saw Him in a whole new way. For the first time they saw from the outside what He is on the inside, the glorious Son of God. And although this transfiguration portrays Jesus in glory, it still bears a striking similarity to the Agony in the Garden.
Like the Agony in the Garden which took place on a mountain, the Mount of Olives, the transfiguration also took place on a mountain, Mount Tabor. Like the Agony in the Garden, the transfiguration was witnessed by only three Disciples: Peter, James and John. And like the Agony in the Garden which took place at night, the transfiguration also took place at night. And in both instances, the Disciples fell asleep while Jesus remained awake praying.
On Mount Tabor, the three Disciples saw Jesus in a moment of ecstasy, when His divinity shone through in a way that it had never done before. At the Mount of Olives, on the other hand, they saw Jesus in a moment of agony and crisis. Then His humanity shone through in a way that it had never done before. In both events we see a striking contrast: the humanity and the divinity of Jesus. The total Jesus.
There are two sides to us. We contain both the human and the divine. There are times in life when we experience moments of ecstasy, times when everything is going well, when life is good. When we hug our friends and forgive our enemies. Sickness and death take a vacation.
On the other hand, like Jesus on the Mount of Olives, we also experience moments of agony, when life is miserable. We find fault with our friends and curse our enemies. And we lose faith. And we doubt God.
At these times, remember that Jesus experienced the same highs and lows in His life. But in good times and in bad, we always find Jesus praying. He always had faith in His heavenly Father. Prayer and faith were His strength, His rock.
A man I know is a recovering alcoholic. He has been sober for 10 years. He tells the story that one evening he was alone in his small apartment, getting drunk just like he did every night. His life was at its lowest point: he had lost his wife and children, lost all his money, and had no job. Then, for some reason, he sat back in his chair and said this simple prayer: “God, I am killing myself and cannot stop. Please help me or I am going to die.” Then he got up from his chair, went to the sink, and poured out the rest of his bottle. Still, to this day he is amazed that he had the power and the strength to do that. He said, “All of a sudden, after I said the prayer, I found the power to change.”
I am not saying that this will work for all our problems, but I am saying that faith and prayer have helped others as they help Jesus.
I attended a funeral. The man we buried was half my age, a young man full of talent, full of love and life. And that life was stolen from him not swiftly and painlessly, but slowly and cruelly. Those of us who stood by were tempted to complain with Martha: Lord, if You had been here our brother would not have died. We could not help but ask during his long illness, Lord, where were you when he whom You love was dying?
Where were you? Have you ever noticed how so often we put a question mark where God has put a period? At such times it is only by listening, almost in desperation, that we hear God speaking. Not explaining, not defending, not justifying, but saying, do you love Me? Then trust Me. I do care. I was never closer to Him than in those last agonizing months, for every Gethsemane is My garden, and every Calvary is my cross. Have faith in Me.
When the times get rough, faith can move mountains: mountains of fear, mountains of doubt, mountains of despair. Faith is not weakness. Faith is power: the power of God. And faith is achieved through prayer.
St. Paul tells us that when our faith is strong nothing can come between us and the love of Christ. Even if we are troubled or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked. He goes on, when our faith is strong neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power or height or depth, not any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus, our Lord. I leave you with a question: do you believe this? Do you believe this?