I have always enjoyed detective stories, plays and dramas, especially TV series. One of my favourites in the past was always Columbo with Peter Falk. Some still get shown on afternoon TV and satellite channels.
Columbo was different not just because of the eccentric detective, nor only because of his detective powers, but especially because in every episode in the first few moments the viewers saw who the murderer and was, and, to a certain extent how he or she did it. Columbo is not a ‘whodunit’ or even a ‘howdunit’, but instead a ‘how-did-he-work--it--out’? For this reason, it was really important not to miss the first few minutes of the show!!
Now - Mark’s Gospel is like this. At the very start in verse one we were told ‘The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ - and yet all the way through the disciples don’t quite get it, the people don’t quite get it, the Jewish leaders certainly don’t get it. Time and time again we hear that the crowds discuss ‘Who can this man be?’, his enemies say ‘Who does he think he is?’ and his disciples fail to understand what he teaches them.
But we, like the Columbo viewer, know exactly who he is, who he thinks he is, and what he means when he teaches them about his suffering, death and resurrection.
And so, in the Gospel, there are the occasional moments of insight, of revelation - the ‘light bulb moment’ when suddenly, and sometimes briefly, all is made clear. His baptism is one, when the voices speaks from heaven. Many of his miracles are like this, especially when someone shouts out ‘You are the Holy One of God!’ - and Jesus silences them.
And today’s Gospel, today’s celebration is especially one of these. The voice speaks from heaven and says ‘This is my Son, my beloved, listen to him!’ In a flash, a bright flash, all is made clear. This is who he is. This is what he has come to do. And what happens? Peter bumbles away, and the disciples puzzle what on earth Jesus could possibly mean.
In many ways we are so like the disciples, in the middle of a drama, a puzzle, to which the answer is very clear if only we can stand outside it. In all the puzzles, struggles, doubts and trials of life we struggle to do something, anything - a bit like Peter - that can make some sense, or we scratch our heads like the disciples trying to work it all out.
When we see the whole picture, the truth will be clear. When we are able to look back on the path we have trod, with all its uncertainties and wanderings, we shall be able to see the guiding hand of God.
What can we do? Build tents. Scratch our heads in bemusement. No - the voice of God which speaks from heaven has the answer. Remember what he says? ... This is my Son, my beloved ...
The proper response may not be frantic activity, searching for something, anything to do - like Peter. And the answer may not be found in our many questions and searchings, our discussions, debates, arguments and reasoning - like the disciples. Both responses suppose that the answer lies within us. It does not. The answer to the struggles of life lies with God. We must wait on him. Be ready for his promptings. Open to his grace.
Don't speak. Don't do.