One of my appointments as a priest was working in a hospital in my hometown. As in any hospital many people died there. One of the readings that I would often read as part of the prayers for the dead is part of the second reading, the part where it says, ‘For us our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the Saviour we are waiting for…’ I’m sure when I read this out it usually wasn’t heard, because the people there were too much in shock, too numb, but the reading is important because it is a reminder to us of the hope that we have, through our faith.
Can you imagine what it would be like if we had no hope; if we didn’t believe in any kind of an afterlife? It would make this life very difficult. How would we keep going when things go wrong, when everything seems to fall apart? One of the greatest things that our faith gives us is hope. We mightn’t think of it this way, but it’s true. You may even think that you don’t have much faith at all, but if you’ve even come this far, to mass, then you have faith. We believe, even if we don’t have it all figured out. We believe that there is a better life after this one, if we choose it by the way we live. We believe that we will see the people we love again. It’s very important that we have this hope.
In the first reading God promises Abram, who later becomes Abraham, the Promised Land: a land for his people, a home, but the Promised Land is also a sign or a symbol of what he is promising us: eternal life in heaven. The Lord is saying that it is there for us if we want it and if we want it, then we are to try and live the way he taught us, because that is the path that brings us there. And so we do, we struggle and try to live as the Lord pointed out to us. It’s not a particularly easy way, but Jesus never said it would be. In fact he said it is the narrow road.
Our faith is what guides us along this difficult path and helps us to keep going, because our faith tells us that it’s worth while. Otherwise why would we bother to try and be different? Trying to live as a Catholic is what this journey is all about for us. It’s not about rules and regulations, it’s about a relationship with God. The rules and regulations and all the moral problems, they come afterwards. When our faith is alive, then these things fall into place. If we start off by focusing on the controversial issues, then we will miss the point and our faith will never grow. Our relationship with God is what comes first. Everything else is secondary.
What is the worst situation that you’ve ever been through? Maybe a death, or a separation. If you had no faith at all, it would be very hard to keep going, because you would have no hope, but we believe that God will see us through.
In this Gospel an interesting thing happens. Jesus let his three closest men see his glory. He let them have a glimpse of who he really was. He showed them that he was God. This happened just before Jesus went to Jerusalem and was arrested, tortured and killed. Do you know why he did this? He showed Peter, James and John his true splendour as God so that they would have hope. They were about to become very confused and disillusioned when he was killed. Everything they had come to believe in was about to appear to fall apart right before their eyes. So he gave them this vision to keep them going and it is also a reminder for us of the hope that we have.
I think it’s lovely to see Jesus giving these men hope even before they needed it. We usually turn to God when we get in trouble, but here, Jesus is anticipating what they will need. He is ahead of them, providing for them and the Lord does the same for us even though we may not be able to see it.
‘This is my chosen Son. Listen to him.’