God has given everything for our sake, in the hope that we might give Him everything in return, not that we owe Him anything, but rather that we might more fully receive all He has to give us. By taking up our Cross, by following Jesus we leave ourselves behind and receive Him all the more fully, sharing His very life. In today’s Gospel we see what happens when Peter, James, and John follow Jesus to the mountaintop.
Moses and Elijah—the Law-Bringer and the Great Prophet—appear on either side of Jesus who has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Peter wants to make three tents so that the incredible sight might remain. But it is not to be, for the voice of the Father booms from Heaven, saying, “This is my chosen Son; listen to Him.” Close your eyes, Peter, and open your ears. Notice at the end of the passage the three apostles fall silent…
The Rule of St. Benedict perhaps puts it most clearly: “Listen carefully, my child, to the master’s instruction, and attend to it with the ear of your heart.” Had Peter and the others stayed awake to hear the divine conversation—Jesus speaking to Moses of His own upcoming exodus!—they might have realized Jesus was more concerned about where He was going, rather than where He was going to stay. Had Peter listened, had he remained attentive to the Lord, he’d not have embarrassed himself and missed an opportunity to take in Elijah’s words regarding the many prophecies that were soon to be fulfilled. Imagine, then, if Peter had listened to all these things and considered them in his heart: one future night in Gethsemane, he might stay awake.
Jesus is the Word of God; when we want to know what the Father has to say, we look to Jesus and listen with our hearts. Receiving the gift of Jesus is not so much a matter of knowing or doing the right thing, but it is primarily about loving Him, about receiving the Word of God—Jesus—into our hearts. That is where He desires to dwell, not in a tent on the mountaintop. When we give Him our loving attention we thus give ourselves; a listening heart is an open heart.
“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” We say this at every Mass, but what is the word? Jesus, there in the Eucharist, the Word more silent than a whisper yet speaking volumes. Jesus is the Word which is spoken for the healing of our souls, and He wishes not merely to be seen but also believed, to be heard by our hearts, to enter and thus transform our lives. Listen to Him; let your heart be the tent—tabernaculum in Latin—in which He is received as a beloved and honored guest, for in giving Him our whole attention, we give Him our whole selves.