Mar. 17, 2019 [ 02 LENT]
• Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18 • Psalm 27 • Philippians 3:17-4:1 • + Luke 9:28b-36 •
Title: [Time-Out/Transfiguration ]
[_01_] This second Sunday of Lent, we read the Gospel of the Transfiguration. Jesus on the mountain with his disciples. And, I’d like to use an analogy, considering the sport of basketball and how it is played and sometimes how basketball is coached. This example does not just apply to basketball but all sports and more generally to our lives.
[_02_] Phil Jackson was a professional basketball player and later a coach who successfully won championships with the Chicago Bulls (because he had Michael Jordan) and also with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Phil Jackson was also well known – notorious – for how he made use of a time-out in a game. You know, a time-out is when a player or coach asks the referee to blow the whistle and stop the play so that the teams can have a break and …perhaps, figure out how to recover from some adversity…or if they are winning how to put the pedal to so-called metal and build up a lead. A time-out in basketball is usually 45 seconds.
What we often see in this 45 second “timeout” is a conversation between the coach and players. And the coach is drawing with his or her black magic marker furiously and telling the players where to run and pass and shoot. That’s a standard time out.
That was not, however, a Phil Jackson time out.
Phil Jackson did not use a magic marker much or draw up up new plays or even to talk to – or lecture – the whole team.
Rather, he used the time out as a way to speak closely to one player, find out what was going on with him … and get him back in the game.
I imagine he did not spend a lot of time talking to Michael Jordan, because Jordan did not need much correcting. Probably he was talking to Dennis Rodman or Scottie Pippen. Or, Shaquille O’Neal.
He took the opportunity of the time out to have a more intimate conversation with his players.
[_03_] The Transfiguration is similar to a time-out, a break in the action as the clock is ticking toward the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior.
Of course, this is not just a game, but real-life. I use the time-out as an analogy and also a reminder that Jesus as the leader and teacher has a more profound sense of time and timing and what is coming next than his disciples do. They understand partially what is coming next. Jesus knows the timing and plan.
The Transfiguration is connected to another important moment in the Gospel when Jesus asks – the disciples - on their 2-question midterm “who do people say that I am?” and “who do you say that I am?
The disciples were told, then, about the Passion, Death and Resurrection. Peter himself proclaimed and scored 100% on the “Who-do-you-say-that-I-am” midterm. Peter knew the answer, “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God.”
Though Peter knew this, he did not yet recognize the implications of suffering.
The Transfiguration is a time-out moment, intimately with just a few disciples for Jesus to share the plan of salvation with them and so that they will get the answers to the future test – the future test of the Passion and crucifixion – ahead of time. It’s good news to get the answers to a test ahead of time.
The paradox is that Jesus is glorified through his suffering the paradox of knowing– as St. Paul writes – “when I am weak, it is then that I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
[_04_] The Transfiguration is a moment for the disciples to be prepared for what is coming next.
In this regard, I am comparing our prayer moments to “timeouts”
Every time out we take in life is an opportunity not just for us to figure out what is going on out there – in life – but to reflect on what is touching or moving within me.
In the time-outs of prayer, then, it is not necessary – or even advisable – that we bring an agenda or list. Even if we do not have a list, we can go to prayer. Just bring yourself. And, take time in the moment.
You - the people of Lourdes, of the parish – also inspire me to pray, to seek silence, to pray for you and with you.
This past Christmas Eve, after our very beautiful Christmas Eve Masses with our choir, I turned on the television to watch, believe it or not, Christmas Eve – in New York/Manhattan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. One of my friends told me that this was entirely alien… yet, I felt at that moment in the Christmas spirit and I knew I would not be able to catch this Mass on ESPN SportsCenter highlights later. It was then or never. I also wanted to hear and judge whether their choir-singing was any good. They were OK….
So, the disciples are also urged to pray now, and taught something about the urgency and value of their prayers, right now.
Our prayers also have value right now, not because we are asked to draw up a new play or plan but because we are endeavoring to sense and know God’s voice. God’s voice which asks us to turn our attention to Christ. As the God the Father tells us, “this is my beloved/chosen Son, listen to Him.” (Luke 9:35)