In the gospel today we see Jesus taking his three closest companions Peter, James and John away from the crowd and up a mountain where they could be alone by themselves. Every step up a mountain offers a wider perspective on what lies below. From there we begin to see how winding roads and meandering rivers intersect with each other. Mountains offer a different view of time, they belong to the story of a million years. There on that mountain we are told that Jesus was transfigured, his clothes became dazzlingly white and they were joined by Moses and Elijah. It was as if the veil of his humanity was pushed aside for a time and they saw him as he really was in his divine essence.
For nearly three years they had walked and talked with him and on numerous occasions they had seen that divinity shine through. This would have been especially so when he had worked miracles of healing or raised someone from the dead. His humanity was like this brown paper bag, it was subject to all the limitations of the flesh; it got tired it had to sleep and it had to be fed and it had to do all the things that bodies do. Now suddenly all that was gone and they were struck dumfounded by the beauty that lay beneath.
The big question is did Jesus come to reveal to us who he was or did he come to reveal who we are. His mission was never for himself so the answer to that question has to be in terms of us and reminding us of something that we so easily forget, that we too have a divine essence, that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that we are his children. The incredible dignity with which he treated every human being pointed to the fact that beneath the crumpled cloak of our humanity lies something exquisitely beautiful that words cannot even define. Jesus alluded to it when he spoke of the kingdom being within or the treasure in the field or the pearl of great price.
The great tragedy is that most of humanity is totally unaware of this incredible dignity that is ours. We get totally caught up with the crumpled bag that we completely lose sight of the treasure that is within. Then we end up with such silly thinking that our value lies in what we do or in what we have, in how we look or in what others think of us. In comparison with the awesome wonder of who we really are these things are paltry in the extreme.
To know our true worth, to discover who we really are and to find our true selves it is absolutely necessary to come apart from the noise and the crowd every so often otherwise we simply get lost in the world of what the Buddists call Maya or the world of illusion where we might think that having more means to be more or that increasing the speed might help but forget that if we are not on the right track it doesn’t really matter.
It’s from taking time out to be quiet and allowing our souls to catch up that we truly become disciples of the master and learn to listen to his voice. The word disciple means to be a listener and a learner. Perhaps the most effective means any of us have to make a difference and to serve the world is simply by learning to listen to God. After all who has the more to say him or us? The way some of us rattle off prayers you would think that the only one who had something to say was us.
Finding someone who is a good listener is quite rare. Just because we have two ears that can hear doesn’t mean that we practice listening. For most of us the need to be heard is so much greater than our desire to listen and so we find that when we begin to tell a story the other jumps in with, ‘Well now is’nt that interesting wait till I tell you what happened to me.’ Similarly in the political debates at present notice just how little listening takes place. How few can allow another person to speak without having to interrupt. It’s the kind of bad manners that can also characterise our prayer and relationship with God.
Just one simple word from God can be an inspired idea that can bring countless blessings. The privilege is there for all of us if we but learn to take more time to be quiet and to listen. God’s voice may come like a whisper others describe it as a still small voice while others describe it as a thought that is dropped into our brain that carries compelling authority and usually a sense of urgency. With too much noise in our lives we are definitely going to miss it and even when we fine tune ourselves we may even doubt it. But when we do make the leap of faith and trust it wonderful things can happen.