Sybil 2000

Gospel text

Mark 9: 2-10

2 Six days later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him, and makes them climb a high mountain to be alone with him. He appeared then metamorphosed before their eyes, 3 and his clothes became white of such whiteness that no manufactory on this earth is able to obtain such a white. 4 Also, they experienced the presence of Elijah and Moses who were in discussion with Jesus. 5 Peter responded by saying to Jesus, "Master, it is good to be here. Let's set up three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and another for Elijah. He did not know what to say because he was terrified. 7 Then a cloud enveloped them and a voice was heard from the cloud: "This is my son whom I love. Pay attention to what he says. 8 And suddenly, looking around, they saw no one except Jesus, who was alone.

9 When they came down from the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen, except after the new Adam would have returned from the world of the dead. 10 They remembered this word, wondering what it meant to return from the world of the dead.


Seeing in others what few people see

Gospel commentary - Homily

The two faces of life

He was a brilliant businessman. In the middle of a transaction, he had this ability to make extremely fast calculations. In addition, he was an extremely generous man, caring for his brothers and sisters when they encountered difficult situations. With his wife and children, he was overflowing with tenderness. But suddenly, he began to forget things: a faucet that flows, a stove that heats. One morning, he takes the bus for a short trip, and his anxious family will not find him until the evening. The diagnosis was made: he had Alzheimer's. Things went bad. He began to accuse his wife of stealing him. To calm his anguish, his wife put a wad of banknotes in small cuts: he had the impression of having a lot of money on him. He could go out for a run dressed in pajamas. In the few moments of lucidity he had before sinking into the night, he was exploding in tears. The time came when it was necessary to hospitalize it. The pain was unspeakable for the family to find this spouse and father in diapers, spending his days chewing a cloth, no longer recognizing anyone.

When a disease is identified, the first response is usually denial, both from the person concerned and his family: it is not possible, not him. Then when the disease is really settled, the temptation is great to get away from this person, as if he or she was already dead. What is the true face of life? Who are we really? The answer can come only by agreeing to keep these two faces together. This is what the evangelical narrative of this day proposes. Let's take a closer look.

This story is traditionally called that of the transfiguration of Jesus. In a few words, Jesus invites his most intimate disciples to a high mountain where they will suddenly see him transformed into a dazzling habit, conversing with two key figures of the Old Testament, while a heavenly voice will ask them to listen to this God's beloved son. Our reactions to this narrative range from annoyance about this supernatural and unreal world, to an impulse of piety before this Son of God shown to us in all his divinity. We then miss what this story tries to translate with a somewhat confusing style: in the midst of announcements of passion and the approach of death looming on the horizon, the faith of his close friends sees and hears things about Jesus that escape the majority of people. In other words, when ordinary people will see in Jesus only a disfigured condemned man, the faith of his close friends will continue to see this extraordinary and unique being who spoke of God in an extraordinary and unique way. Their faith has been able to keep together the suffering and disfigured being, and the beloved and unique being they have known, as both part of our human reality.

Historically, things probably did not happen literally as described in this account, ie with this sudden transformation of clothes, the cloud that envelops them, and the voice from heaven that resonates. But this story of Mark borrows a little the language of the wondrous world in order to translate a deep and true thing: it is this intimacy lived in love with Jesus that allowed the disciples to go through the atrocity of his trial and his death , and to make the Easter experience later. It is only this look born of love that makes it possible to see something other than a disfigured and dead being. Faith is nothing else than this look born of love.

When we look at the story of the transfiguration, we can have the impression of being solely centered on the person of Jesus. It is a mistake. We can not talk about Jesus without talking about ourselves. Jesus is simply tracing the path that is ours. Thus, we are also these two faces of life, we are that person in a radiant garment who is the beloved son of God, and we are that disfigured face. And the temptation is great to see in ourself and in others only the being of light, when life spoils us, or the being of darkness when adversity arrives. What the account of the transfiguration says: when the sky is darkening, bring back the glasses of your faith and do not forget the luminous being that you are and the beloved being of God that you are. This is what caregivers do when they look after beings whose mind has left for imaginary worlds, such as Alzheimer's disease; their eyes pierce the darkness to see the luminous being again and to love him.

I will admit a mania that I have. For a few years, I saw many babies when I visited couples with my wife for baptismal preparation. Each time, I looked at the child right in the eyes and asked myself: what will become of him? What will become of her? Today, every time I meet someone, whoever he is and whatever his actions, I can not help but imagine the baby he was, this baby with a tender and bright smile. Yes, I know, I know. There is Hitler, there is Saddam Hussein, there is Gaddafi. Is it possible that this loving baby is dead in some cases? Does the story of the transfiguration is deceiving us? So we must be like watchmen waiting for dawn, the day when the luminous being will pierce the darkness, the day when Easter will become a universal reality. At least, if that's our faith.


-André Gilbert, Gatineau, December 2011