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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: August 6, 2018
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during a Mass with seminarians and the Carmelite nuns at the Carmel of St. Teresa of Jesus in Little Rock on Monday, Aug. 6, 2018.
You and I are closer to some people than we are to others. We have acquaintances, friends and loved ones. We share some things with everyone and more personal things with our friends but we reserve our most intimate moments for those who know us best and are in the best position to understand when something unexpected or troubling happens in our lives.
Jesus was closer to some of his followers than to others. He had many disciples, 12 Apostles and an inner circle of three best friends: Peter, James and his beloved disciple, John. He shared some things with all of his followers and more personal things with the apostles — for instance the Last Supper, but he reserved his most intimate moments for his inner circle.
Jesus shared with these three closest friends his most glorious moments like his Transfiguration in today's Gospel and his most painful moments, like the Agony in the Garden. These three were the ones who knew Jesus the best and the price he was paying personally to do his Father's will. These three knew more than the other who Jesus was on the inside — they knew more about his courage, as well as his fears, which is what will make Peter and James' abandonment of Jesus on Good Friday particularly painful.
If you are not willing to bear a cross, you’re not yet following Jesus. If you go to the seminary seeking your own glory, to win the esteem of others and the power that comes with the sacrament of orders, you are on the wrong path because this is not the path of Jesus. You will not be able to be faithful to your promise of celibacy without embracing a cross.
But his very best friend, John, did stay with him all the way to the end. And notice, John was the only apostle who ended up dying later of natural causes. Why? Maybe because he had already experienced a type of martyrdom — spiritual martyrdom — by risking his life to stay with Jesus at the foot of his cross. Peter and James ended up dying for Christ later — finally embracing, courageously, the cross that they had earlier tried to flee.
And that is the basic message of Jesus' Transfiguration for us: The only road that leads to glory passes through Calvary. This is true for both Jesus and all of his followers — the apostles and now us, and above all those of us who are priests and seminarians and Carmelite sisters.
If you are not willing to bear a cross, you’re not yet following Jesus. If you go to the seminary seeking your own glory, to win the esteem of others and the power that comes with the sacrament of orders, you are on the wrong path because this is not the path of Jesus.
You will not be able to be faithful to your promise of celibacy without embracing a cross. You will not be able to be faithful to your promise of obedience without embracing a cross. You will not be able to protect the flock entrusted to your care without embracing a cross. As the Jews say: “The Rabbi whom everyone likes is no Rabbi.” If you bear your cross with love, one day you will receive a crown ... but otherwise, not.
Today Peter, James and John see Jesus transfigured with glory — his face shining like the sun and his clothes as white as light. Later they will see him transfigured with pain — sweating blood during his Agony in the Garden, whipped and crowned with thorns on Good Friday, his body broken but not his spirit, which remained courageously resolute to do his Father's will completely.
And then finally on Easter Sunday, they will see him transfigured in glory once again as on the day of his Transfiguration, but now bearing in his resurrected body the wounds by which you and I were saved.
And it is only then that it will all begin to make sense: Jesus' glorious identity as the Son of God who will save us by means of a very un-glorious death — which is something they're not quite ready to understand yet — which is why, as they were coming down from the mountain of his Transfiguration, Jesus charged them: "Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has risen from the dead."