If you want to really know a person,
you’ve got to spend time with them – and look
beyond the surface.
In late summer of 1988, I was sent by the
Bishop of New Jersey to serve a parish as a
Deacon in Atlanta, Georgia. I moved to
Atlanta knowing not one soul. So, one of my
personal goals upon arriving was to make new
friends. I worked at meeting people involved
in the parish as well as people outside of the
One of my new friends was Tom. He
knew I needed to meet more people to feel at
home in Atlanta. So, just after we met, Tom
took me to a pre-Christmas party. It took
place at a grand home in the Ansley Park
section of Atlanta. We were graciously
greeted by the host and asked to wear name
tags. The house was decorated festively and filled with women and men, laughter and
music. But the music was less than desirable.
A young man sat at a grand piano trying
to pluck out melodies of Christmas carols
while a group of at least 10 attempted to sing
along. It sounded awful. After watching and
listening to two desecrated carols, I excused
myself from Tom and walked over to the
piano, offering to play. The young man sitting
at the piano looked at me with eyes of relief,
and quickly got up from the piano bench.
I must have played carols for 45 minutes.
The group of 10 gathered round the piano
doubled and music of the season filled the air.
When I finished with the carols, I searched and
found my new friend, Tom. I laughed when I
saw that, for fun, he’d changed his name tag
to read “I’m a friend of the piano player”. It
was then I realized that before the carols, Tom
didn’t know me well enough to know that I
play the piano.
The disciples spent some alone time with
Jesus. Yet, Jesus’ activities of healing, feeding
and calming storms could have given the
disciples a wrong impression. He wasn’t just a
miracle worker. Jesus wanted to ensure that
his disciples, especially the core group of
Peter, James and John, knew his true identity.
But, how could Jesus effectively confer to
these men his identity without sounding like a
I believe, Jesus knew that he was
different. Jesus knew he was chosen by the
Creator of the Universe to bring divine love
and compassion into the world with the hope
of drawing people into personal relationship
with the Holy One. Jesus wanted his disciples
to understand this and be witnesses of God’s
desire. And, God provided the opportunity. The story is amazing. While Jesus was
praying on a mountain, with Peter, James and
John close by, an astonishing event took place.
Jesus’ appearance changed. He glowed with
God’s presence. Moses and Elijah appeared
and stood next to Jesus. Moses symbolizes
God’s Law and Elijah symbolizes God’s
prophetic revelation. These three men spoke
together within the dimension of God’s
A cloud encompassed all present on that
mountain. Then God’s voice was heard: “This
is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.” You
might recall, Jesus heard similar words at his
baptism. When God’s voice had spoken, Jesus
was alone with his core disciples. Peter, James
and John embraced a new perspective. Life
for them would never be the same again.
What is the meaning of this story? There
was a point when Peter, James and John saw Jesus in a whole, new light. From that day
they understood him to be who he is: God’s
Son, God’s Chosen, brightly shining God’s
presence to the world. And, they understood
their part in this new revelation. They were to
be witnesses to the world of God’s love and
compassion given through God’s Son, Jesus.
How can we best be witnesses of Jesus
today? How can we help people get to know
Jesus in life changing ways? I think there’s a
plethora of ways we can be witnesses of Jesus
to the world.
Carolina is one of our children at St.
Paul’s. She was one of three recipients of the
Easter Alleluia Eggs. Her father, Matt, sent
me a paragraph letting me know how Leena
used the $5 she received from her Alleluia
Egg, which was intended to help others.
These are his words:
“Carolina had recently learned a bit about
charities at Harman Elementary School. After
we discussed different ways to use the money
from the Alleluia Egg, she decided she wanted
to give to an organization that specifically
helps children. I looked up local children’s
charities here in Dayton and gave Leena a
couple of options. She chose to donate to “For
Love of Children”, particularly because of their
Read to Me program. Leena has always loved
reading and story time, and this program has
volunteers read to children and give them
books to take home. With the money, we
went to the bookstore and she chose some
different early reading levels books and
This is a story of a child being a witness
of God’s love to the world. Your story will be
different, but none the less powerfully
important. Sometimes I laugh at the politeness of
our Collect of the Day. But as our Collect so
timely reminds us to not get caught up in the
disquietude of the world – the noise making us
anxious and attempting to distract us – we
need to be vigilant about witnessing to the
world the love and compassion of God through
Jesus Christ our Lord. As Jesus’ disciples today
that is our vocation.
Keep up the good work, Leena. And, let’s
keep doing good work, too for the sake of the
one who loves us immeasurably.