Have you ever had to hold a secret until the right time? I remember how frustrating it was for me to keep a secret about a surprise birthday party for a dear friend. It was going to be the “big 4 0” and we had all decided that I was the one who was going to have to “delay” him until all the festivities were ready. And, boy, had we planned an elaborate celebration. Let’s just say it involved a convoluted journey AND an unexpected guest! It was fun! BUT, I was absolutely on pins and needles trying not to give away the surprise until the right time!
Timing is everything in life, but how do we discern when the right time is to launch a project, propose marriage, change jobs, or do the hard work of brutal honesty with another? As with all discernment, it takes time, humility, and courage to learn how to get the timing right! It means we have to be sufficiently aware of our surroundings, our own heart, and the hearts of those around us to make the timing just right. And, I don’t care who you are, that’s hard work.
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Mark 9:2-9:
At that time, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of man should have risen from the dead.
Of course, we are in the joys of the Feast of the Transfiguration, but what caught my attention today was the Lord’s command to Peter, James, and John not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Why?
For two very good reasons: First, the Lord knew that Peter, James, and John would need time to process the revelation they had just experienced. But we know these men’s’ stories. In spite of this miracle they had all seen, Peter still went on to deny the Lord, and James and John are going to so misunderstand the purpose of the Lord’s ministry that they will ask to sit at His right and left when He comes into His kingdom. And all of them were going to scatter once the Lord was arrested and crucified! All too often we don’t give profound truths time to sink deep into our hearts and, because of that weakness, we fail to allow these truths to sufficiently change us and make us more discerning in our lives. It takes time to let something this wonderful sink in!
Second, the Lord knew these men needed to pass through this preparation of suffering before they could really appreciate what had happened to them. They would have gotten it all wrong; misunderstood the real purpose, and misinterpreted the experience if they didn’t pass through the challenges ahead of them first before telling their story! That’s true of us as well. Many times the beauty of our faith must pass through times of silence and contemplation before we and our hearers are ready to really hear the deep truths of our faith. No wonder the fathers of the Church have reportedly declared that “the language of heaven is silence.” This isn’t a silence of timidity or confusion, but a profound and full silence in the face of the truth too big for words. Only adoration can encompass this glory!
Today, as we live in the afterglow of the feast of the Transfiguration, let’s allow some time and some silence so that this wonder can do the deep work in the deepest parts of our hearts. Only in that way will we be discerning enough to know the right time to speak! Only then will we be able to be Orthodox on Purpose!