Walking up to the casket, the two-month-old looked like a baby doll–a tiny frame with polished skin–that had never experienced life. The nineteen-year-old mother made her way up the aisle, leaning against the father of the child and weeping into his shirt with a rhythmic grief that lasted throughout the ceremony. Brother Jim, once again, had the unfortunate duty of leading the services for an infant death.
During the funeral, family members and friends had an opportunity to share some reflections about God and the world. They spoke of their own hardships—of being shot, stabbed or assaulted, losing siblings and children to the streets, and burying the young instead of the old. The crowd experienced emotions in various ways—sobbing, nervous energy, detachment, and even energetic warnings about end times.
In a moment like this, it is hard to remember all of the promises for grace and goodness that God gives us. It is hard to remember the times we have known securely God was listening and answering our pleas and prayers. What could be the possible reason for infant death? We are left without an immediate answer. We can feel vulnerable and forgotten as we attempt to make sense of things.
In sharp contrast, The Catholic Church recently celebrated God’s presence and power brought down to Earth during the Feast of the Transfiguration. Jesus appears to Peter, James, and John in all of his glory, spectacular and understood. Furthermore, God’s voice is heard clearly; Jesus gets God’s stamp of approval, leaving no doubt for any of them to listen to His words and teachings.
Many of us have had moments when Jesus becomes transfigured in our own lives. Whether it is an intense prayerful moment in Church, a service trip experience, a period of suffering that makes us stronger, or a deep conversation with a friend, there is a reason why we all still believe the good news, even when we are bombarded with the bad. In my own experience, I felt Jesus transfigured after rediscovering the benefits of the sacrament of reconciliation in college. Walking out of the church, the stars seemed brighter, the air clearer, and the sounds of nature more peaceful. I felt wrapped in the joy of Christ and as though nothing could ever touch me again.
Reality, however, is waiting for us when we come down from the joy of the moment, bringing us back into the realms of doubt, fear, regret, and longing. We all face tragedies down at the foot of the mountain.
Just like us, the apostles and Jesus all had to walk back down the mountain, away from the certainty of the moment. They would face suffering and even the death of their beloved, rattling their faith and making it difficult to believe the words spoken even by God.
We all must come down from the mountain and live in the reality of a tumultuous world. How can we take the lesson of the transfiguration and bring it back down to everyday life?
It is a lesson in perseverance; In sitting in the turmoil and remembering the grace. In seeing the despair, death, and agony, and believing that death is never the last word. It is always life. It is always the Jesus transfigured and resurrected, and not Jesus, bloodied from the cross.
We cannot ignore the reality of a two-month old being laid in the casket before us. But neither should we deny the reality of the hope of Jesus transfigured when our eyes shift from his gaze, calling us towards life that will be waiting on the other side of the human struggle.
–Megan Sherrier, BSL
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