ColumnsNaming Grace

The grand sweep of life

When voicing enthusiasm about our grandson entering high school, I noted our Freddy was excited about playing high school baseball. A man, whose son graduated recently, cautioned: “He may be on one of several freshman teams, but by senior year, only a few, and I mean only four or five, will make the varsity team. Don’t set your expectations too high.” Nothing like squashing one’s enthusiasm. Actually, I’m sure he was preparing me for the possible disappointment Freddy may experience as a high school baseball player. As parents and grandparents, we pray our children won’t be hurt or crushed under life’s disappointments.

In Sunday’s Gospel, we read of Jesus hiking up Mt. Tabor with Peter, James and John. These apostles also encounter Moses and Elijah, who represent the law and the prophets. Reflecting on the transfiguration of Jesus, Scripture ­scholar Father Donald Senior writes, “From Matthew’s perspective, the whole sweep of Israel’s salvation history is in view: Moses, Elijah and the End Times fulfillment of the Scripture in Jesus.” Peter, James and John were granted this eternal vision to strengthen their faith.

The apostles needed a strong dose of good news. Six days before the transfiguration, Jesus pointed to Jerusalem, where he would “suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed (and raised from the dead).” Talk about bad news — a devastating blow. But Jesus doesn’t leave the apostles at the grave. Through the transfiguration, Jesus reveals the end of the story — the resurrection — before they head down the mountain to Jerusalem, where they will witness Jesus crucified.

Not only does the Transfiguration provide a sweeping view of salvation history, it offers the sweeping view of life — a lens for which to view every human experience. As Pope Francis says, “faith is living life from a higher plane.” We take the long view. We go beyond the current situation. We learn that defeat and failure do not define us. We know disappointment, sickness and even death will not have the final say. In fact, all of these stumbles — these little deaths — can lead us to fall prostrate in prayer. And because of Jesus’ resurrection, when we listen to him, we can fearlessly rise up from any death.

As parents and grandparents, we lead our children through disappointments by speaking of grace — God’s radiant presence — pulsating through every death or negative experience to bring new life. We strengthen our children by reinforcing their true worth as God’s beloved children — loved infinitely and unconditionally. Each child is beloved whether the star of the team or a bench warmer, voted on homecoming court or snubbed by the popular group, earns an A or fails a test. We teach our children to take the long view: exclusion from the mean girls doesn’t mean she’ll never have a friend; a failed course doesn’t mean he won’t thrive in another area of study.

If Freddy makes the varsity team someday, that’s fine, but his worth is not dependent on it. I pray Freddy will view life through the Transfiguration — seeing the big picture, the end of the story, the grand sweep of life. Jesus invites us to bring each disappointment, failure and death to the Eucharist, where through his cross and resurrection, we are given new life. Now, that’s good news!

How will you teach your children to see beyond each disappointment?

What does the Transfiguration mean to you?

Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent. To read more reflections or to connect with Mary Pedersen: