Maybe it’s because I went to St. Peter’s Parish in Lovilia as a child, but Peter has always been one of my favorite saints. This is a guy who seems like one of us ordinary people, at least in the beginning, before that martyrdom stuff. He plunges ahead, meaning to do the right thing, but somehow trips over his feet instead. He swears everlasting allegiance and then needs a chicken to remind him of his failures. But he keeps on trying to follow Jesus. May we be so graced (except for that martyr part, God.)
One of the daily Gospel readings for this week is Mark’s report of the Transfiguration. Jesus has taken Peter, James and John up on the high mountain. He is transfigured, his clothes now brighter than any that Clorox ever brightened. What’s more, Elijah and Moses –long dead, remember — show up and start to talk with Jesus.
We don’t have a record of how James and John reacted, but did Peter keep his mouth shut and just take it all in? Did he live in the moment? No, and I probably wouldn’t either. Remember my namesake Martha? Peter and I both have to be busy in a well-meaning way. So he wants to improve the situation, tweak it a little. He says, hey, Jesus, how about if we build some tents for you guys? It is recorded that Peter “hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.” Like me, Peter overlooked the option to listen, just listen.
Then “a cloud came … from the cloud came a voice, ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’” Matthew’s version tells us that Peter “was still talking” when God began speaking. I’ve always wondered whether Peter missed part of the message, especially that line about “Listen.”
Scripture says that Peter and the others did fall down and were “very afraid.” I’d be afraid too, if I heard this great voice from the sky. Maybe that’s why Peter kept talking; what a risk to listen, really listen, to what God has to say.
And maybe we – surely I— keep talking because to listen is so frightening. If we let ourselves truly hear the Word, we will have no choice but to act in radical ways, ways very counterculture to our American way of life. We can still hold committee meetings and liturgical conferences and fundraisers for the poor – good things all. But really hearing means continually asking whether our time and energy are better spent in planning or in doing? Does everything we do – everything — advance the coming of the Kingdom? How does our every choice fit with Jesus’ mandate to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and take care of widows, orphans and aliens in our own land?
We don’t have the excuse of well, gee, we don’t have any mountain tops nearby on which to go and get the message. Jesus already told us, in words plain and simple and terrifying to hear, really hear. What’s worse, from our human excuse-seeking standpoint, the voice of God is heard everywhere, not just at high altitudes.
If today, you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart.
Like Peter, we try. Don’t give up on us either, please, God.