I love a good movie, especially Westerns. One of my favorites is Tombstone. Not only does it have several great lines to quote, but it is also well written and in my opinion, Kurt Russel and Val Kilmer’s best performances, as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. It’s also special to me because it’s one of those movies that Jim, Derek, Craig, and I all love…one that is a special bond between us. When I think of the movie…I think of them.
Near the beginning of the movie, there is a scene where Wyatt, his brothers and their wives have reunited and are standing opposite a store front. Wyatt notices their reflection in the large window and has the group stop to look at themselves. As one of the brothers begins to speak, Wyatt says, “Don’t talk…”, and they stand silently, soaking in the moment.
I thought about Tombstone this week after reading the Transfiguration during my daily Mass readings. From Matthew 17, it reads:
After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
There is so much depth to this story that I could probably blog each day on the various aspects. But for today, I want to focus on two things.
The first is Peter’s response. Can you imagine the scene? Here is Peter with James and John…Jesus, shining bright as the sun…Moses and Elijah appearing…he must have been in awe. But, Peter, being Peter, felt the need to say something.
Now, I’m not knocking what he said. Peter almost certainly was thinking of the Jewish feast of Sukkot, which means “booths” or “tabernacles.” At seeing Jesus transfigured, Peter got the idea to build three booths or tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. (In John, 7:2, John simply calls it the Feast of Tabernacles.) But like so many times, Peter, instead of “soaking in the moment”, is trying to jump ahead and figure out what to do next.
The second is God’s response. Not only do the disciples see Jesus transfigured, and Moses and Elijah before them, they hear God’s voice say to them, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
Listen. Be still. Pay attention. Over and over, these words are played out in the Bible. Everything we need to know it there. But so many times, we are on to the next thing. We are rushing into action before we know what action is required of us. Martha, preparing the meal, while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. Peter, telling Jesus not to wash his feet. Sarah, sending her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham. The Bible is full of stories like these…people not waiting…not listening. Why? Because they were human just like us.
It’s hard to wait…to stand still…to be silent…to do nothing. Our minds so busy with everything we need to do, that quiet time with God seems impossible. We want to make a plan…build tents…put the train in motion. But that’s not what we are called to do. We are called to listen. Listen to Jesus. Listen to his words, through the scripture. Listen to his words, through our prayer time. Just listen.
At the last supper, while Jesus was trying to give some last-minute instructions, the disciples were arguing over which of them should be regarded as the greatest. Jesus patiently rebuked them, and then said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” He went on to tell Peter that he would deny him three times. Peter, instead of listening, argued with him, saying, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.”
Jesus it not only telling Peter what trials are coming his way, but that he will come back from them, so strong in fact, he will be a strength to his brothers. We too are called to strengthen those around us, but we can not face their trials for them. We cannot “fix” them, anymore than we can fix ourselves. As with God, we must listen to our brothers. Really listen. In a recent deaconate class, we spent the better part of two weekends doing just that. Listening. Not fixing…but listening to each other. Sounds so simple…and yet, it’s a skill learned like anything else.
Do you know what God is calling you to do? Are you taking time to hear or rushing ahead like Peter? Ask him…but when you do, take the time to listen and hear the answer.
Obeying God is listening to God, having an open heart to follow the path that God points out to us. -Pope Francis