A reading from the Book of Genesis
“The Lord said to Abram: ‘Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those that curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.’ Abram went as the Lord directed him.”
Abram’s conversation with God marks the origin of the Jewish people. God tells Abram, whom he soon will call Abraham, “I will make of you a great nation.” These words often have often been a comfort and source of hope to the Jewish people during their historic suffering and their frequent dispersion.
The same is true for us today amid turmoil throughout the world and in our own country. Let us ask in hope for God’s blessing for our country and our world. And let us ask for that blessing in the name of our brother and Savior, Jesus Christ.
(Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22)
“Lord, let your mercy be upon us, as we place our trust in you…. May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us who have put our hope in you.” Let us remember that our hope, in God, is ever present and eternal. Do you believe that?
A reading St. Paul's Second Letter to Timothy
Paul is writing to his disciple Timothy at a time of persecution and death for the early Christians, and Paul wants to encourage them. “Beloved: Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” How does your strength come from God? Do you ask for strength? How do you respond when it seems that no strength comes?
Paul writes that God “saved us and called us to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” The word “gospel” means good news, and the good news, as we know it, is that Christ Jesus destroyed the finality of death “and brought life and immortality.”
Do you believe the amazing promise that death is not the end, that we will live another life, that we are immortal? That is the teaching of Jesus, and it has been the teaching of the Church for more than two thousand years. It is the gospel, the good news, of our salvation.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
“Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.”
The Book of Exodus tells of God making himself known to Moses. Matthew, who is writing for a mostly Jewish audience, wants his readers to know that Jesus too had such an experience and that Moses himself and Elijah were there. Of course, Peter is overwhelmed, especially when he hears a voice saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” Peter does not want to come down from the mountain. He is ready to build three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. “But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’’’
Have you ever had moments when you were, in a sense, “on the mountain with Jesus”? Maybe it was at Mass or in prayer or at a time of healing with someone you were present with in a deep way. Or perhaps it was simply being in nature or anywhere that you felt the presence of Jesus. Did you feel as Peter did and not want to “come down from the mountain”? These special moments with Jesus or with the Spirit or with our Father occur to help us deal with our everyday challenges, hurts, disappointments, failures. The key is being open to the mystery of God being with you.
Painting: Transfiguration of Jesus by Carl Bloch, 1865. Frederiksborg Palace, Hillerød, Denmark. Public domain.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.