Thursday, 6 August 2009

For he knew not what he said


I love this feast of the Transfiguration! But I've said that before.

Today we heard Mark's account of the Transfiguration, here is the first half of the Gospel account:

1 And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter and James and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves, and was transfigured before them. 2 And his garments became shining and exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller upon earth can make white. 3 And there appeared to them Elias with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. 4 And Peter answering, said to Jesus: Rabbi, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. 5 For he knew not what he said: for they were struck with fear.


This time I want to concentrate on Peter. Peter so often appears to get a raw deal, especially in Mark's Gospel. You can hear Peter recounting the stories to Mark and every inward cringe of Peter's at his own foolishness and unworthyness is highlighted in the text. The point I want to make is that only Peter has the right to be hard on Peter. Only Peter can possibly criticise his own actions. It is not for us to say Peter was silly, said stupid things, was impetuous, wasn't the sharpest of the bunch....though I've heard many say such things of him.

We forget that when the transfiguration takes place, Peter had recently made his great profession of Faith. Our Lord had seen what was so special about Peter, we should think about what those qualities are.

The Gospel text above gives us many clues. Firstly, despite his fear Peter calls out to Jesus, "Rabbi". He acknowledges Our Lord and he acknowledges that Jesus is teaching them something they as yet don't fully understand. "It is good for us to be here", Peter is filled with joy as well as fear, Peter loves the Lord. "Let us make three tabernacles", Peter understands, instinctively he is to serve the Lord, even if he is unsure how to do it. James and John do not say or do anything that is recorded.

This is why Peter was the first Pope, he observes and listens to Christ to teach him. He loves the Lord totally. He instinctively seeks to serve the Lord.

These are characteristics that the successors of Peter must have too.

Surely the transfiguration reveals something of the strength of Peter, not his human weakness.

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