"This is my beloved Son, listen to him" (Mt 17: 5). What does it mean and cost to listen to Jesus, God's beloved son? To obey Jesus's instruction is to deny oneself, take up the cross and follow him ( See Mk 9: 34). Abraham, our father in faith, did this when he obeyed God's commandment by not withholding his beloved son, his only one, Isaac, as a holocaust to God (Gen 22: 12). Abraham's offering of his son to God as a sacrifice is, in this sense, a prefigure of God "who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all" (Rom 8: 32). God clearly shows he knows what sacrifice and suffering entail through his act of giving Jesus up for our redemption. We must listen to God and obey his commandments even if it bring about affliction and suffering. God never abandons us in our suffering; he provides us strength and hope.
The story of the transfiguration of Jesus on the holy Mt. Tabor is God's remedy to the Christian experience of suffering. The revelation of divine glory in the transfiguration of Jesus will come to the aid of the apostles when they see Jesus go through his passion and when they, too, encounter suffering in the world when they listen to and obey Jesus' teachings. This event on the mountain points to a central truth of our Christian faith- that the cross is the key to heavenly glory. The cross eventually leads to the resurrection. Without the cross, there is no resurrection. We should never forget that our sufferings and afflictions are not the end of the story. When we continue to listen to and obey God's commandments, we should always trust that God will not abandon us, even if we feel that way in real-time. God will always point to the transfiguration of his Son as the definite end of our prayerful walk with Jesus, the denial of self, picking up our cross and following him.
One of the most instructive pious devotions in Lent that captures the spirit of Jesus' passion is the Stations of the Cross. The Via Crucis or Via Dolorosa, the way of the cross or way of sorrows/suffering, is an effective and impactful way of contemplating the suffering of Christ and a way of drawing inspiration and strength to endure our suffering as we strive to live our life in obedience to the Gospel of Christ.
I strongly encourage everyone to make it a priority during Lent to attend the parish's stations of the cross every Friday at 7 p.m. after we are done eating our Lenten fish fry dinner. Jesus invites us to pick up our cross and follow him; let us listen to him!
Fr. Bernard Alayode, OP