Not all fears are bad. Some are necessary for healthy relationships. Matthew’s narrative of the Transfiguration tells us Peter, James, and John fall prostrate and were afraid when the bright cloud “cast a shadow over them” and said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him”.
The Revised Standard Version will translate “very much afraid” as “were filled with awe”. The bright cloud refers to Exodus 33:7-11. Moses would enter the Tent of Meeting and God would descend in a pillar of cloud and stand by the entrance to speak to Moses “face to face, as one does with a friend.” The Israelites would stand at the entrances of their tents and prostrate themselves and worship when the cloud descended. Hence, the Transfiguration reveals Jesus is God descended as the Word-made-flesh who speaks with Moses and Elijah face to face. Peter, James, and John, then, represent the Israelites witnessing this event and rightfully worship God’s imminently near presence.
Holy fear acknowledges God’s transcendence and imminence; God is both far, totally “other” from us, but so close that he wants friendship. “Jesus came and touched them, saying, «Rise, and do not be afraid»”. Scripture tells us “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” But wisdom is not man made; wisdom comes from God. Yet, the wisdom of God is foolish to us because God’s wisdom is the cross. “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23).
Not even Peter is immune to the scandal of the cross as Christ called him “Satan” prior to the Transfiguration (cf. Matthew 16:22-23). The Transfiguration was to teach Peter, James, and John to let go of their fear of the cross. Christ has to embrace his cross so he can be the pattern of our obedience to the Father: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
And we are no different. This Lent, let us spend time and worship before the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration speaking to him “face to face”. For Jesus wants us to see him as a friend, like Moses, Peter, James, and John did. But, at the same time, the Lord Jesus wants to reveal his full splendor to us as the Risen Lord who embraced his cross so that we may adore and worship him as “our savior Christ Jesus who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).
Joseph Yuson – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta
Fot. Marc Olivier Jodoin/Unsplash.com