One of the things I always enjoy about travelling is meeting new people. Hopefully some of those people become friends. Initially we are introduced, then we say a little about ourselves. If we get on well, we may meet again. As a friendship develops you learn more about the other person, their background, what they like, how they think. Over time a bond starts to form. If a true friendship develops we may even share some of our deepest secrets, because we have learnt to trust the other person. A real friendship is a great gift and when a real friendship develops we make sacrifices for that person, we do things for them and in a sense we also try and serve that person in different ways.
In the same way, all of us are called into a relationship with God and more specifically with the person of Jesus—Jesus who is both fully divine and fully human. Our faith is not just about belief in a teaching, it is about an encounter with the person of Jesus.
In the Gospels we read about many different men and women that Jesus called to himself, to enter into relationship with him. In St. Mark’s Gospel it says: He called them to be with him (See Mk3:13-14).
13 [Jesus} went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. 14And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach (Mk 3:13-14).
Different people were called to specific tasks like the Apostles to preach the Gospel. Others were called to different kinds of service, but everyone had a role, men and women. But the most important role for all of those people was first to know Jesus and be with him and they did. Some of those people he allowed to become closer to him than others. Even among the Apostles he invited some to a closer relationship than others. In today’s Gospel we read about Peter and the brothers James and John. Jesus took just these men with him on three occasions: once when he brought the 12 year old girl back to life (Jairus’ daughter); at the Transfiguration which we just read about and also in the garden of Gethsemane when they watched Jesus breaking down with fear and sweating blood at the thought of what was ahead of him. He was showing these three men more than he showed most of the others.
Once people got to know Jesus they were called to use their gifts in his service and they did. We are also called to use our gifts in his service. This is part of what it means to be a Christian. A community like this one doesn’t become a community unless people give of themselves generously, using their gifts and talents to serve others and thankfully people do that here with great generosity. There are over 95 different ministries in this parish, which is quite something. It only becomes a community when people use their gifts. I have my calling as a priest and I try and use the gifts I have, but I am only one person and like anyone I am very limited in what I can do. But when all of us use the gifts we have, things happen.
In the Gospel today we read of an extraordinary event, when Jesus briefly allowed Peter, James and John to see him in his glory as God. It must have been both amazing and terrifying all at once. These were his closest friends and you could say that he was sharing his deepest secrets with them, allowing them to know for sure who he was. They were being given this extra strength for what lay ahead, because Jesus was about to go through his passion which they were to witness first hand. Jesus knew how difficult this would be for them and so he was helping them. What always strikes me most about this event was the words of the Father, ‘This is my Son the Beloved; listen to him.’ ‘Listen to him’. In Jesus we find everything we need to know. He is the answer to what our whole life is about. He points out the path to us and shows us how to live. ‘This is my Son the Beloved; listen to him.’
The disciples were entrusted with a great treasure. That treasure was the knowledge of who Jesus was and what he did for us. Their job was to pass this on to others. St. Paul writes ‘But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us’ (2 Cor 4:7). What would have happened if they decided that this was too much like hard work? How many people would never have heard of Jesus if they hadn’t played their part, using their gifts to pass on this message? We are also entrusted with a particular role and particular gifts. No one else has the part we have. It may even be something very simple, but everything has its place.
I remember the first time I went to a prayer meeting which was instrumental in bringing me back to my faith. It was held in a private house. When I went into this house I didn’t know anyone and I felt awkward and uncomfortable. Then a big man came up to me and said, ‘How are you doing; my name is John McCarthy and you’re welcome.’ I never forgot that, because it put me at ease and made me feel welcome. That prayer group helped me to come to faith and then I went on to become a priest. The simple role of that man made a big impact on me, making me feel welcome in a place of strangers. I’m sure he would never have thought that what he did was important, but 26 years later I still remember it clearly.
All of us have a part to play, which no one else will play. What it requires of us is that we respond to God with a generous heart. Who knows how God will use the gifts we have once we respond. We are entrusted with something beautiful, but it is up to us to use.