by Ken Rolheiser
Easter Joy, Pain and our Transfiguration

I recently heard a comedian play on the dire situation described by a woman on line. She said that her life seemed all darkness and shadows. Of course the chuckle came when he pointed out that in a place of darkness there are no shadows.

Good Friday is a place of darkness we revisit each year. Our lives have valleys of darkness that often seem to want to swallow us. We need the Resurrection of Easter, we need the Transfiguration of the Mountain top (Matthew 17) to lift us to hope and joy.

At a lay prayer service in a seniors’ home I recently chose the Transfiguration passage as our Gospel reading. After the reading I tried to put a smile on the faces before me.

In our regular service our Pastor always first tries to make the seniors smile. He engages them actively in the scene, asking them to clap their hands, stamp their feet, and smile - “If you’re happy and you know it say Jesus!” Then he tells them Jesus wants them to be happy and that Jesus loves them. Then they are ready to receive a message.

In Matthew 17 Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him to a mountain top where he is transfigured before them. “All my life,” I told the seniors before me, “I have focused on why God shared this moment with Jesus. Jesus was preparing to go to Jerusalem and there he would meet his death by crucifixion.”

It is curious, I thought, that Jesus gets a special vision before he faces death but you and I don’t. “But this year it struck me,” I told them, “that this scene was for us. ‘This is my son, the beloved. Hear him.’ When we face the end of our lives we can look forward to meeting our parents, our grandparents or friends that have gone before us.

“Jesus met with Moses and Elijah. We will meet with our loved ones. This should bring us joy as we anticipate our Resurrection.”

Easter Resurrection and the Mountain top experience of the Transfiguration will help us as we anticipate the end of our lives. Even in that valley of darkness we will all face, there is cause for a smile and for hope.

Father Brendan McGuire shares a moment when he visited a dying man. In the prayer for Commendation of the Dying it says, "Go to meet your maker; go to meet your Lord in the Garden of Paradise; He will greet you, and all the angels and the saints will come out to meet you."

McGuire shares: “I usually lean into them and say, ‘Just say yes to the Lord’.” But on this occasion he looked at the patient and added, "Ron, will you please say hello to the Lord for me and tell him I need some help here.

“Ron looked at me straight in the face and smirked. It was such a relief because in that moment we broke through. In that moment, he was ministering to me, not I to him… he knew that… soon he would be able to meet the Lord.”

“We need to remember those moments of hope,” McGuire says, remember those moments when God was present to us, “and to pass on this hope to others.”

May the Joy of the Easter Resurrection be with you this Easter and throughout the coming year.

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