I confess I’ve always puzzled over how to bring this particular story alive.
For it’s not as though this is something that happens every day. In fact, many of us would assert that we’ve never experienced anything quite like this moment in time where a few chosen disciples join Jesus on a mountain top. Where they witness him in conversation with prominent figures from their faith history. Where they see Jesus’ appearance change in a way that could not be duplicated on earth. And where they hear the very voice of God declaring Jesus’ identity. It’s no wonder Peter attempts to bring it all back down to earth by offering to build some dwellings for them. On the other hand, it’s also no wonder Peter wants to capture this moment, hoping to make it last just a little while longer…
I’ve always puzzled over how to bring this story to life. For I, like most of us, don’t spend a lot of time on the mountaintop. Most days while I won’t puzzle over who Jesus actually IS, I will spend considerable energy trying to see him at work in the world. And yet, much like those disciples, I have had those moments of being so privileged to see the past meet the present in such a way that the future somehow holds more promise. Where the light of Jesus is shining but it’s also marked by a kind of cloud of mystery which reminds us this is not of our doing. Moments when I have, in fact, been able to recognize the hand of God all over them. Perhaps you have, too.
The face of a newly engaged person shines with joy. The face of a child who has accomplished a difficult task glows with pride. The face of a person who has made a difficult choice to do what is right against all odds reflects peace. These are all visible expressions of transfiguration, although fleeting ones.
The transfiguration the disciples witnessed on the “high mountain” was also fleeting: they came “down from the mountain.” At the same time, this transfiguration foreshadowed the theophany of an eternal glory: Christ risen from the dead.
Jesus’ theophany of transfiguration and risen Life continues in us in the world today through our participation in the paschal mystery, the dying and rising mystery of Christ. This participation requires of us the same dying to self Jesus embraced. We must set aside our own agenda to pay more attention to the needs of others. We must be generous in recognizing and complimenting the good others do. We must be inclusive in accepting those who do not look or think like we do. These actions are fleeting, but they portend what is everlasting. Experiences of transfiguration help us see beyond what is here and now to what will be—our eternal share in Christ’s risen Life.