by Rev. Paul Lansu
Senior Policy Advisor, Pax Christi International
[Ed. Note: This is the third in a series of reflections throughout Lent from Rev. Paul Lansu. Reflections on the Sunday readings will be posted each week on the Friday before the Sunday which the reflection references. Holy Day reflections will be posted the day before the actual Holy Day. See all of these reflections and other resources at this link.]
How can silence be a calling? Abraham experiences it in his sleep. In addition, Jesus practises silence during prayer. A silent protest may sound louder than shouts and screams. The silence after the peace agreements in countries such as Guatemala or Colombia cries out over injustice and negligence. What call do we hear in silence? Is it the call to repentance? The call for engagement and commitment can sound strong. Do we listen to the cry we hear from silence or not?
The gospel of today shows us Jesus as a signpost. He takes us up the mountain. He invites us to pray. That clearly shows where he lives from. That is from his connection with God. His face starts to shine. It is a “mountaintop” moment for him. According to tradition, Mount Tabor is the mountain of the transformation.
Heaven and earth meet at the top
Biblically, a mountain is the place where heaven and earth meet. A mountain is always the place to meet God. On top of that mountain, Jesus also meets two other significant figures from the history of God with the people: Moses and Elijah. Those are testimonials in faith. Two shining examples. Through them Jesus may be guided in his mission. As a second Moses, he wanted to free the children of Israel from the land of their fears; as a second Elijah, he called them away from their idols, to the true religion and the true human service: love God and love your neighbour. Just like we can give light to each other on our way.
The top of a mountain is not a holiday resort
However, mountaintop moments rarely last long, as it is also today. It is no permanent residence on top of the mountain. Peter and his companions get to hear that when they want to build three tents. Life demands that we have to go down the mountain again, into the valley, to share the life of the people in its true form. That life is often raw and hard. We sometimes experience it ourselves.
Jesus is also waiting for another mountain. That is Mount Golgotha, that of the cross and of the totality of God’s abandonment. On his way there, Jesus will show solidarity with the innumerable many who ask in desperate suffering where God remains and when there will finally be justice for them.
“I have been to the mountaintop,” Martin Luther King, Jr said. With that vision in mind, he managed to hold himself in valleys of deep darkness. We must remain faithful to our calling on earth. We keep the vision on the mountaintop in mind so that we can trust that in our valleys of darkness nothing can separate us from God’s love.
Every person is equal and entitled to solidarity, giving and receiving
Lent helps us to focus on two things. Firstly, it emphasises that everything in life is fragile, for suffering and death are both a part of life. Scripture says that we should treat each other as equals, use our time and talents well and not just rely on our own strength in life but make some space for God too.
Secondly, Lent tells us that, because we are all vulnerable in different ways, we should practise solidarity. If we feel down, then faith in the goodness and meaning of life can be restored when someone helps us back on our feet again. When we are in a position to help, then we should do so, for it is a luxury and a privilege to be the helper. Who knows what tomorrow may bring — we may then be the ones needing help. People of faith are problem solvers!
It is true that solidarity has been deeply impacted by individualism and materialism. We are glad to see that the many services and the strong grassroots social presence touching all layers of society – yet with an option for the poor, the marginalised and the suffering – are a stabilising asset for all communities and, politically speaking, for democracy. Nobody can be left behind.
Serving the common good
Living in solidarity entails striving for the common good, or the ‘bonum commune’, together. Society should develop in harmony with every person and his/her environment, and to everybody’s content. Solidarity calls for tangible acts. It is a time for action. Every person deserves help, especially in situations of war or other needs, such as people on the run.
As a human being, one inevitably lives in the company of others, both locally and globally. Society belongs to everyone and people thus live in a participatory manner. The social fabric in which people live has both local and global characteristics. That social fabric should be, or is, the medium for life in peace and harmony with other people and our surroundings.
Let silence speak in circles of solidarity
Jesus, a vulnerable human being, is in solidarity with our need, the one in whom God’s face is here as a promise, a hope of life. That may be called a Tabor experience. It is a foretaste at Easter, on our passage from death to life. I wish you a Tabor experience occasionally, one in which we may experience God’s light occasionally in our lives. This is possible if we are guided by God’s word as it comes to us in Scripture, in prayer, in silence, in the life of Jesus. It is possible when we meet people who are as good as God is. Such people make us shine, recognising our deepest being. Let us be such people for each other.
The formation of silence circles for an hour or so to reflect on injustice and suffering of people can mean listening to the call to connectedness and change, listening to the cry of the earth and of the poor. An hour of silent prayer – or just silence in a circle – can be a strong testimony to our solidarity with the weak in our society and elsewhere. The silence speaks and the circle of solidarity grows.