During the 1948-49 war between the Arabs and Israelis the Arabs captured half of the city of Jerusalem. It wasn’t until the 1967 Six Day War that the Israelis were able to once again reunite the city. As I know you are all probably aware, trying to keep track of all the wars in this region of the world is almost an impossibility. At one time or another, I’m sure that everyone involved or watching has lost hope and wondered if these two peoples will ever accomplish peace. Yet, occasionally, there are glimmers of hope.
When the Old and New Cities of Jerusalem were reunited in 1967, a recently widowed Arab woman, who had been living in Old Jerusalem since 1948, wanted to see once more the house in which she formerly lived. Now that the city was one, she searched for and found her old home. She knocked on the door of the apartment, and a Jewish widow came to the door and greeted her. The Arab woman explained that she had lived there until 1948 and wanted to look around. She was invited in and offered coffee.
The Arab woman said, “When I lived here, I hid some valuables. If they are still here, I will share them with you half and half.”
The Jewish woman refused. “If they belonged to you and are still here, they are yours.” After much discussion back and forth, they entered the bathroom, loosened the floor planks, and found a hoard of gold coins. The Jewish woman said, “I shall ask the government to let you keep them.” She did and permission was granted.
The two widows visited each other again and again, and one day the Arab woman told her, “You know, in the 1948 fighting here, my husband and I were so frightened that we ran away to escape. We grabbed our belongings, took the children, and each fled separately. We had a three-month-old son. I thought my husband had taken him, and he thought I had. Imagine our grief when we were reunited in Old Jerusalem only to find that neither of us had taken the child,”
The Jewish woman turned pale, and asked the exact date. The Arab woman named the date and the hour, and the Jewish widow told her: “My husband was one of the Israeli troops that entered Jerusalem. He came into this house and found a baby on the floor. He asked if he could keep the house and the baby, too. Permission was granted.”
At that moment, a twenty-year-old Israeli soldier in uniform walked into the room, and the Jewish woman broke down in tears. “This is your son,” she cried.
This is one of those incredible tales of hope we hear. What followed? The two women liked each other so much that the Jewish widow asked the Arab mother: “Look, we are both widows living alone. Our children are grown up. This house has brought you luck. You have found your son, or our son. Why don’t we live together?” And so they did.
In the midst of bombed out buildings and flying bullets, these two women managed to accomplish what has eluded the region since day one. They found peace and this peace was a glimmer of hope. A revealing of a distant future.
In the Book of Exodus, we learn that when Moses came down off of Mt. Sinai, his face was radiant with the glory of Lord. So much so, that it frightened the people, so afterwards, Moses would go around with a veil over his face. Today, in our reading from Corinthians, St. Paul references that veil, but now it is a veil that hides the mind. For those that do not yet believe, it hides the mind from the glory that is revealed in the Son of God – in Jesus. And I believe, for those who believe, it can also hide the glory of Jesus that is in them. That is in you.
Paul says, “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” Yet for many, we stand before that mirror and there we see all of our imperfections, our sins, prejudices. We see all those ungodly parts of our souls. However, somewhere in that distorted view, is the very image of God!
On the day that Peter, James and John ascended Mt. Tabor with Jesus, I’m certain they felt the same way that we do. As they sat at a short distance watching Jesus pray, they asked themselves, “Who am I compared to this Jesus? He raises the dead, calms the storms, feeds the multitudes, heals the lame, but who am I?” The veil that hid their minds revealed only their imperfections.
Then suddenly, as the disciples sat watching Jesus, they were aware of a great brightness. They looked toward Jesus. Without thought they rose to their feet in silent reverence. Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone with an unearthly brilliance. His garments were whiter than snow. Standing beside Him were Moses and Elijah, the representatives of the Law and Prophets who foretold His coming. The Apostles could hardly contain themselves, and then from above a bright cloud overshadowed them, like the cloud that signified God’s presence to the Israelites as they wandered in the desert for forty years. It was then, from the cloud, came the very voice of the Creator. God the Father said, ”This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
Like the peace between the Arab and Jewish widows, this transfiguration of Jesus was a glimmer of hope, a revealing of a distant future. Jesus did not change from one physical form to another, instead he was making known his true self in all glory and majesty.
What did the that glimmer of hope look like for these apostles? What was this distant future? It was a time when they would stand before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again would they hunger; never again would they thirst. It revealed a time when the sun would not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne would be their shepherd and would lead them to springs of living water. It revealed a time when God would wipe away every tear from their eyes.
The transfiguration pointed them toward that distant future and it was the voice of God that told them the way, “This Jesus is my Son. My chosen. Listen to him. Learn from him. Follow him, so that you too may be my son, my daughter, my child.”
Like the Apostles and everyone else who genuinely looks into St. Paul’s mirror with that veil that covers our minds, I don’t like what I see. In that dim image my sins appear like scars, crisscrossing one on top of the other. My clouded eyes are a sign of my poor choices. My weakened muscles are the result of spiritual apathy, and the excess weight is the effect of my lust for the things of this world and not the things of God. At times like this, the despair and self-loathing pummel me to the ground, but then… but then suddenly I become aware of a great brightness and I look toward Jesus. Almost without thought I rise to my feet in silent reverence. Jesus is transfigured before me. The veil is removed from my mind and Jesus’ face shines with an unearthly brilliance. His garments are whiter than snow. And that same glory shines from within me.
For us all, the glory of the Transfiguration burns through the veil and we are given a glimpse of that distant future where there are no longer those imperfections, the cloudiness, or scars. Instead, perhaps for only a moment, we see the road that leads to our salvation and we become aware of who we truly are in Christ.
This isn’t anything weird, but close your eyes for a moment and look into St. Paul’s mirror through that veil. What do you see? You don’t have to name it aloud, but in this moment, name it to yourself. What is there that you don’t like? That you are ashamed of? What is the ungodly that you see? Now, allow the light of the transfiguration, the true light of Christ that has come into the world shine upon you. With this light shining upon you, what you now see is your hope. Your future. It is your salvation and it is who you truly are in Christ Jesus.
Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.