Sunday thoughts: August

By Monsignor John Devine

The Transfiguration is a positive, affirming experience. "It's wonderful for us to be here," says Peter. His reaction is the one we get when we climb a hill and enjoy the view. The world below looks different. Fears and frustrations evaporate. We want to bottle the experience for ever.

Matthew's Gospel depicts a series of encounters with Jesus in which individual lives are changed. The following week some of the same group have a completely contrasting experience. Rather than being elated, they are terrified at the prospect of drowning in a small boat; a fear compounded by the appearance of a ghost-like figure – the grim reaper. The surprise is that it is Jesus himself. He is with them in the storm. Jesus is present in the danger and turbulence just as he has been present in the elation of the mountain top.

Usually it is Jesus who encourages the disciples to overcome their prejudice and welcome the outsider. But the Gospel for the third Sunday in August has the disciples pleading with Jesus to help the Canaanite woman. Jesus grudgingly changes his mind. His prejudice overcome, he is taken by surprise at her faith in him. (Similarly I often respond reluctantly to an inconvenient request only to find my faith enriched by it.)

These three stories are stepping stones in a faith journey that leads to that familiar but no-less-sublime act of faith: "Who do you say I am?" Jesus asks. Having recognised the presence of Jesus in good times and in bad, Peter can say: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Christ is present in every twist and turn of our lives.