*Homily given by Fr. Arnel Aquino, SJ at the Cenacle Retreat House on the Feast of the Transfiguration 2017.
We had a Himig Heswita concert in Tokyo over 2 weeks ago. Out of the 6 singers who were supposed to sing, only 2 made it. The other 4 didn’t get their visas on time. It wasn’t really their fault. Last May, our very well-meaning secretary volunteered to do the run-around for the visas. But then, things got very busy in the office. So what he did was—he entrusted all their papers to a very good friend whose mother knew her way around travel agencies. But, long story short, our secretary’s friend sat on the papers. The documents never reached his mom. Worse, he charged my friends outrageous fees for this, that, & the other, inventing “requirements” w/c they later found out were bogus. In the end, no visa. So, imagine: Sakura Hall, Shibuya Cultural Center, famous for classical concerts, a huge place. But instead of 6 singers promised, only 2 came. We had to convince to sing with us 1 of the organizers there who sang in a church-choir, & he agreed. But imagine all the re-adjustments of solo parts, the 3-part harmonies coming to naught, the last-minute rehearsals. Everything hung on a thread all because of a fixer. Fixers don’t care for anyone other than themselves, do they? Or anything other than your money.
A very good friend used to work with government. I remember him saying, “Mula sa mga clerk sa front desk na nagpapa-pedicure o kumakain ng maruya during office hours, pataas hanggang sa mga boss na walang ginagawa, the whole system is just crawling with ineptitude & corruption.” I guess that’s why we have fixers. We part with good money on them because we can’t be bothered by long lines & waiting & rudeness. It’s not entirely our fault, after all, that government gets a pedicure & eats maruya & goes on junkets while we wait in line. In a bizarre & annoying kind of way, fixers “save” us, like “saviors” of some kind. But then again, maybe this is why our country has never seen a transfiguration—the way South Korea, Thailand, Japan have gone through thoroughgoing transfiguration. We’ve relied too much on fixers to do the dirty work for us, & expedite our cause; & from the passion & suffering of it all, to spare us.
Allow me to go into catechism mode for a while. We Christians understand the Lord’s Transfiguration in 3 ways. First, in the bible, the mountain is a privileged place where God & human persons meet. But this time on Mt Tabor, Jesus is the privileged point, our bridge to our God. Secondly, in the Transfiguration, God’s confirms & affirms that Jesus is not only the Messiah prophesied, represented here by Moses & Elijah. God also confirms & affirms that Jesus is most importantly, his beloved Son. Lastly, the Transfiguration previews & anticipates the Resurrection. So, gloriousness & majesty; that’s what we read in the Transfiguration, a mysterium tremendum et fascinosum, a mystery that terrifies us yet fascinates us, as it did Peter who said, “Wow, let’s just stay up here!” No, Jesus says. Baliktad. You don’t get to the glory by leaving the struggle. You stay with the struggle & leave the glorifying to God. So, despite his stature as our bridge to God, the fulfillment of all prophecies, the beloved Son who will rise again—Jesus has had to climb down Mt. Tabor. He’s had to resume being our “fixer”—fixing our ills & disabilities, our demons & our despair. Worst, a real part of that descent will be an ascent…but to a cross. But see, Jesus entrusts none of these to fixers. He will have none of these expedited…not if he really wants humanity to be transfigured into the image & likeness of God. Because isn’t that the reason why God sends us the Messiah: to transfigure us all into his image & likeness?
Dear sisters & brothers, the image & likeness of God is not all glory & majesty. Jesus is the image & likeness of the Father. If we are to be transfigured into that image & likeness, then we will have to reckon with being a picture of pain for the sake of a good cause, being a picture of despair over thanklessness, a picture of sorrow when people we love don’t & won’t love us back the same way. So the image & likeness of a glorious, majestic God includes an image & likeness of a suffering Messiah. It’s like a watermark, this image of a suffering God. It floats beneath the much bolder ink of God’s glory & majesty. Jesus has had to go through the long & arduous way towards the Resurrection. Only then is he finally & irreversibly transfigured. No short-cuts, no excuses, no fixers.
And then there are these incredibly wealthy parents who give their children everything they ask for to compensate for their constant absence. Money as fixer of an ailing family—no transfiguration, walang pagbabago. And then there’s the man who promptly goes to confession to get absolution, but never apologizing to people he hurts & harms. A sacrament as fixer of sin—no transfiguration, walang pagbabago. And the terror professor who delights in flunking students, but passes a high-pointer varsity player who hardly shows up for class. Favoritism as fixer of school victory—no transfiguration. And what about the men who kill & kill & kill again. Bullets as fixers of society—no transfiguration, surprise, surprise. Walang pagbabago.
But then there’s the alcoholic who finally surrenders himself to a laborious rehab…& the weary couple who are on the via dolorosa of marriage therapy…& OFW’s who soldier on through loneliness & slavery…& the cancer-stricken wife & mom who never loses faith in God & keeps serving her family & her church even when she feels her very strength leaking out & away day by day…. there, sisters & brothers, there happens the transfiguration. As a famous psychologist said: “We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love.” But embrace the necessary descent to passion & anguish in order to raise people to God…& the transfiguration happens. Something is changed, a relationship is transformed, we are transfigured. No short-cuts, no excuses, no fixers.