As we approach the second Sunday of Lent we do so with some caution, some reserve, some intimidation and perhaps a bit of ignorance. Today, we learn about this event, described in Matthew as “the Transfiguration”: wherein Jesus goes to the mountain top with his friends and disciples, Peter, James and John. The story focuses on Jesus at first, then eventually leads us to the disciples who are present. Matthew switches the focus from Jesus to them because they are the most like
We often think that we can’t measure up to Jesus and all he does. But we have to remember that Jesus is God, and we aren’t. While the Gospels give us a myriad of examples of how Jesus changes things in our world, it is now 2000 years later and the task becomes ours: how do we change things in this day and age?
We live in an age that is very similar to the time of Jesus, and Peter, James, and John. Perhaps this is why Jesus needed to escape to the mountain to experience the true presence of Moses and Elijah in his Transfiguration. He took Peter, James, and John away from the world in which they lived; with its distracting businesses, its quarrels, its competition, its jealousies and fears, its sacrifices, its
politics, and its strange list of priorities; away from the world, to experience their own personal transition from one stage of life to another.
We can only be invited to the mountain top to witness the Transfiguration. And, in that invitation we begin to explore who we were, who we are, and who we may become.
This is Jesus’ time to introduce us to a whole new way of life. He does so without forgetting the past, whence he came. He is transfigured, his face is as bright as the sun, his clothes become dazzlingly white, pointing to his appearance at the Resurrection and Ascension. He is also joined by two others who bring about deliverance in their own ages: Moses and Elijah. Moses, whose face shown as
brilliant as Jesus’ when he delivered the Ten Commandments. Elijah who was taken to heaven, horses bright with fire, in a blazing chariot.
As Peter, James and John, experienced this moment in divine history, they did not know what they had stumbled into on top of the mountain.
They were being called to move forward beyond who they were. This was the experience that gave them the training wheels they needed to build the foundation of a personal spiritual experience. By God’s grace, they had caught fish every day. With the experience on top of the mountain, by God’s grace, they now experience a transition into a new phase of their lives.
Peter, James and John are called to use the gift of faith Christ was trying to give to them. They have a rough start. Peter says “…it is good for us to be here. Let us build three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter wants to prolong the experience on the mountain. – in other words — “Let’s stay here. We don’t need to go back down. We are happy where we are!” But it is God’s voice that says “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.” – again — in other words, only Jesus truly knows about the past, the present and the kingdom to come. Jesus also knows we cannot stay in one place. We, you and I, are always on the move. During the first part of our lives, our parents can’t wait until we move forward, learning to crawl and take that very first step. In the middle part of our
lives, we are the ones who seek the path forward. To be a part of the world God has created. Mostly using our time, to keep us on the road, to a successful middle stage of life.
As we reach the stage of being “wise elders” in the community, we move forward by looking back at all that has happened in our lives; the many experiences that led to the transitions that helped us become who we are. We now use the wisdom and knowledge and experience we have gathered over the years to make sense of the life we have lived: with its businesses, its quarrels, its competition,
its jealousies and fears, its sacrifices, its politics, and its strange list of priorities. In these three stages of life, we do not leave anything behind, when we move from one transition to another. We take all of our experiences, and what we were and carry it with us into the next stage of life. Until at last we come to that final day, the ultimate transition, into a new eternal life with Christ.
We ought never desire to throw a part of ourselves away, crosses included. God will not let us “un-become” who we are. In the end, we see that it is better to come down from the mountain then to prolong our visit at the top. God has given us this experience, to transition into the ultimate stages of life. And the greatest thing we can do is to give ourselves back to God when he invites us to do
We are told that, in the end, St. Peter will greet us at the gates of heaven, open the book of life, turn to our page and see what we have done. It will all be there. What a wonderful gift to be able to see –everything(!) — all there is, and all we were, and all we have become.