The scene of the “transfiguration” of Jesus gave the apostles, Peter, James and John great spiritual consolation when they saw Jesus transformed in dazzling brightness as He revealed His divinity to them. This experience of deep spiritual consolation is very important to the Peter, James and John because Jesus had told them that He is heading towards Jerusalem where He will be persecuted to death.
Hearing this they were confused as to why a Messiah whom they expect to conquer with power and might should die from persecution. They were also heartbroken because they had developed a deep relationship with Jesus and could not bear to hear of His death. However, the deep spiritual consolation of seeing Jesus’ divinity and glory gave them strength and “hope” in their own trials and persecution; and even their death as martyrs of the apostles of the Lord.
If we were to reflect on the state of the world today, we too would be confused because there seem to be no end to the suffering and misery of millions of people in the world. The human body is wracked with suffering, disease and death. Of the estimated world population of 6.8 billion, surveys organized by the United Nations in several countries have found that more than two billion people suffer from some sort of cancer; 925 million people suffer from malnutrition and dying of hunger; global warming is claiming 300,000 deaths yearly.
The human person itself is systematically denied, denigrated and destroyed through child labour, prostitution, human trafficking, cloning, abortion, euthanasia, ethnic cleansing, scientific testing and capital punishment and the like. There are 40 million prostitutes in the world. That is more than the population of either Canada or Australia, and almost ten times the population of Singapore. This list of tragedies that continue to destroy lives and God’s creation in the world is endless and there is no need to go further into this for this homily.
There are two ways of looking at our world. One is to say: “This is the reality of the world and there is nothing we can do about it; it’s too vast and widespread.” Such an attitude leads to abandonment and despair. The other attitude is to live in hope. Hope tells us that, no matter how severe the problems of the world are, there is a greater force of good that exists; that this force of good, will eventually triumph over the terrors of the day.
Anne Frank was a German-Jewish teenager who was forced to go into hiding during the Holocaust. She and her family, along with four others, spent 25 months during World War II in an annex of rooms above her father’s office in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. After being betrayed to the Nazis, Anne, her family, and the others living with them were arrested and deported to Nazi concentration camps. In March of 1945, nine months after she was arrested, Anne Frank died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen when she was fifteen years old.
Her diary, saved during the war by one of the family’s helpers, Miep Gies, was first published in 1947. Today, her diary has been translated into 67 languages and is one of the most widely read books in the world.
Anne Frank says, “It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals in life and for the world. This is because it is so easy to become discouraged and see our ideals in life as absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet, I still hold on to my ideals because in spite of everything that is painful in my life and gloomy in the world, I still believe that people are really good at heart.
The other alternative in life is to live in despair. And it is clear that I cannot simply build my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness. I hear the ever approaching thunder which will destroy us too. I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet when I look up into the heavens, I think that one day our lives and the world we live in will all come out right; that the cruelty too will end and that peace and tranquillity will one day return again. In the meantime, I must uphold my ideals for perhaps, the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who in the midst of the thousands of his countrymen being slaughtered and killed shares similar hopes when he said, “I am really scared. How long can we restrain the people? I have just got to believe that God is around. That is the only hope that I have. I’m human. And I hold on, and often only by the skin of my teeth, to believe that God is in charge of the world.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, hope is not the closing of your eyes to difficulties, risks and failures in the world and in our lives, but it is a trust that if I fail now, I shall not fail for ever; and if I am hurt, I shall one day be healed. It is a trust that life is eventually good and that love is powerful; and that the most powerful of all love, is to have a God who is willing to love us to the point of dying for us on the Cross, and through His resurrection bring an end wipe away all the tears of the world. His death on His Cross may not be convincing to all peoples, but His Resurrection is out true and real hope.
This true hope is in Jesus Christ obliges us to live in such a way that we are bearers of this True Hope of Christ in our daily living in our family, parish, community and work place. When this happens, we turn hope into a create reality, and in turn give others the strength to be hope to others.
There is a story of and Indian chief who was dying and was in a dilemma of which of his three sons should succeed him. So, he called them to his sickbed and said, “I want each of you to climb the Holy Mountain to search for something that you think is most beautiful and precious gift that you can offer me, before I die. After ten days, the three sons returned; the oldest son brought back the most beautiful and rarest flower that could only be found at the mountain top. The second son brought back a precious stone that is never found anywhere in the world. The third son came back empty handed and said, “Father, I have nothing to offer, because when I finally reached the top of the mountain, I saw on the other side a beautiful land, filled with green pastures and a lake of the clearest water. And I had a vision of how good it would be to lead our tribe to such a beautiful place for a better life . . . and this vision has been so vividly imprinted on my mind that I cannot see any other thing else that I can find to be more precious on the mountain.” The father immediately replied, “Son, you shall be the next chief, because even as your hands are empty now, there is nothing more precious to our tribe than to have a leader who has a vision and a hope of a better future for his people.”
When the apostles Peter, James and John saw Jesus transfigured on Mount Tabor; dazzling in His divinity and glory, they saw a side of Jesus that gave them true hope; the hope that Jesus is offering us a reality that is beyond this world; a reality that offers us everlasting peace and happiness that this world cannot and does not offer.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, let me conclude by saying that, if we want to live in the true hope of the Christian faith, we not only have to see and accept the gift of eternal life that Jesus offers us, but also to see that this hope is already present in and given to each and every one of us by God Himself.
The deepest level of each of us is not how we look or what we possess, but the invisible truth that we are each a son and daughter of God the Father, and a brother or sister of Christ our Lord and Saviour. And thus, our true greatness in our life and what we achieve while we are on earth is how much Christ-like love and compassion we have shown and how much hope in God we have shared in our daily living.
This hope is not the simply a frivolous fancy and imagination of our dreams and desires in life, but a true hope that Jesus has shown not only through His divinity and glory of the transfiguration, but through His death and resurrection that truly and really offers eternal happiness.
And as thousands upon thousands of believers who have lived and died in this true hope that Jesus offers, we too are called to keep this hope alive in our daily living by sharing the truth of how in spite of the gloom and doom of this painful world, all is not lost because there is the reality of the TRUE HOPE that Jesus not only already reigns supreme in this world, but also for all eternity.
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
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