This week we have been pondering our great need for God. In the world today, neediness is generally seen in a negative light. We tend to think of the needy as those who lack basic material things, such as food, shelter or medicine. Or perhaps we think of people who experience psychological suffering – those who are lonely, grief-stricken or depressed. If we think of neediness in this way, it is natural that we recoil from it. Who would want to see themselves as needy?
But we can look at need in another way: everyone is in need of many things all the time. Even the wealthiest person needs someone to fix his car, or prepare his meals, or produce electricity for him. Even the most powerful person needs someone to carry out her directions, to teach her children, or to manage her schedule. Looked at in this way, neediness is not negative; it is a simple fact of our existence. Anything at all that we wish to accomplish creates a need for help to achieve it, and the greater is the thing that we are working toward, the more help we need.
With this in mind, we can see how sad and pathetic it is for anyone to live as if they do not need God. Even leaving aside the fact that we need God to exist at all, when people deny their need for God, they are implicitly declaring that they can achieve all that they want without his help. What they aim to achieve must be very small indeed, if they believe they can achieve it without him!
The vision that we are given today, on this great Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, shows us that we are called to something far beyond anything we could have imagined. The reading from the Book of Daniel gives us a tiny glimpse into the awesome glory of Heaven, where the Father reigns with his Son. We get the sense that Daniel can hardly find the words to describe the wonder of what he has seen. Everything is bright white, glowing as if on fire, seemingly blinding in its brilliance. Myriads of people from every nation are worshipping God.
This vision already fills us with great hope. We want to be invited into that place, where we can experience the glory of God and be counted among those who are privileged to stand before him and worship him. But the Gospel encourages us to hope for still more! Peter, James and John are shown the same great glory of God shining out through the very humanity of Jesus! They begin to understand that God is not content merely to have us join him in Heaven so that we can witness his glory. He wants to transform us so that we shine with that very same glory. The Transfiguration not only shows us more deeply who Jesus is – it also shows us who we are called to be, in God’s plan.
St. Peter assures us in the second reading that this is not some “cleverly devised myth.” He himself was an eyewitness of the Transfiguration. He speaks of what he saw and heard. He declares that this promise of God is “altogether reliable,” and exhorts us to be attentive to it.
We return now to the question of neediness. Considering the overwhelming greatness of what God invites us to hope for, of course we need him! If he had not revealed it to us, we could not for a moment even begin to imagine the great glory he promises us, much less that we could ever arrive at it by our own efforts. We could never hope to be united to him in an intimate union of love, taking our place as his own precious sons and daughters, unless he accomplished this for us. There is nothing negative at all about needing his help to reach such a goal. On the contrary, we are delighted that he is willing to do such a work in us, and we welcome it!
We are left with a sobering reflection. If we choose as our ultimate goal something so pathetically small that we do not think we need God’s help to achieve it, then in the end we may arrive at the most terrible place, where we do not experience his presence and his help. But if we can lift up our eyes to hope for the amazing destiny which God has promised us, then we are overjoyed to need him, for only God could possibly raise us up to such a height!
Have I ever thought that I do not need God since I can achieve all I need without his help? Do I have expectant hope to be counted among those who stand before God and worship him? Do I cherish and look forward to the transforming glory God wishes to share with me?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 16, no. 6. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.