Some time ago a little girl was suffering from a rare and serious illness. Her only chance of survival was to get a blood transfusion from her five-year-old brother who had wondrously survived the same illness and had developed the antibodies to combat it. The family doctor explained the situation to the boy and asked him if he'd be willing to give his blood to his sister. The boy hesitated for a moment, then took a deep breath and said, "Yes, I'll do it for my sister."
As the blood transfusion began, the boy lay on a bed next to his sister with the parents close by, watching the procedure. After a while, everyone noticed the color beginning to return to the little girl's face; but her brother's face grew pale. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away?" The boy had misunderstood the doctor, thinking he had to give all his blood and die to save his sister! He had that much courage!
Look at today's Gospel. Jesus requires of us a similar courage. He had just told his disciples he had to suffer and die, so their hearts are breaking. Jesus knows they need a "boost" so he leads them up to a mountaintop and lets them see him as he really is ae" without any filters! What a moment for these three disciples! They had never witnessed anything like this. Peter, never at a loss for words or action, immediately starts talking and wants to build three memorials ae" one for Jesus, one for Moses, one for Elijah ae" right there on top of the mountain, far from the pain and ugliness of the world below them.
But Jesus' work is not finished, and the disciples' work is hardly begun. So the vision fades and
Jesus leads them down the mountain, back to their work, back to face the challenges of their discipleship. Why? Because nothing of value is ever bought cheaply! As life unfolds for them and for each of us, we begin to understand that the price of things we hold most dear is far greater than we first imagine. Our marriages, our families, our dreams, our life's work all look deceptively simple when we first say "yes" to them in ou youth. It's only later that the real price we must pay becomes evident. Then, like the disciples in today's Gospel, we are tempted to call it quits, to retreat to a place that is cozy, comforting, far above the difficulties of life.
Jesus speaks to us today from that same mountaintop. He is saying: "I know what it is to be tired, to be afraid, to want to run away and never return, to want to hide and not be found. But you must not do that. You will labor and struggle, sweat and suffer, and at times you will fail. But you will never be crushed! Never! In the end, you will triumph. I pledge you this. And I guarantee my pledge to you by my own suffering and dying and rising from the dead. Trust me. Don not be afraid. Be people of courage!"
Remember the little boy in the hospital bed watching his blood slowly leaving his body to give life to his sister. He is willing to give all his blood because he loves her. He is willing to die because he loves her. Is there a better image of Jesus than the courage of this little boy? Can we walk in the footsteps of a five-year-old? Can we? Do we?