Author: Ian Harris
This week we take a look at the Transfiguration according to Luke’s Gospel. I’ve always had a really hard time picturing this scene without imagining it like some cheap sci-fi movie where people appear out of thin air. Even though Transfiguration narrative can be difficult to place yourself in, I still find that there is a lot to be learned that we can apply every day.
If you have ever been on a retreat, or been to a conference like SEEK, I imagine that you’ve had a sort of “mountain-top” experience in your spiritual life. These moments can be very brief but can leave lasting impressions. We do not often feel that “spiritual high” on a daily basis, but we can remember having that feeling. I remember coming home from a retreat my junior year of high school with an overwhelming sense of peace and I remember how badly I wished to hold on to it forever. The stresses of life came quickly after, but I still knew that joy was out there somewhere.
In the Transfiguration, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain where he reveals his divinity more clearly than they had ever been able to see it before. “His face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah…” In order to put ourselves in Peter’s shoes here, we need to see the significance of Moses and Elijah appearing with Jesus. Moses was the one who God chose to lead the Israelites out of slavery, and the one whom God entrusted the law (the ten commandments and other laws God gave Moses). Elijah is regarded as the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. He was one of God’s chief messengers in spreading the word of how God was going to go about saving His people. By appearing with these men, Jesus is showing that He came to fulfill the prophecies given to Elijah and bring to fullness the law given to Moses.
When Peter saw Jesus with Moses and Elijah alongside him, he said, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter clearly wanted to extend the stay on this mountain where I’m sure there was a great deal of joy, but Jesus had different plans. Yes, it was very good that they were there, but there was work that needed to be done. Peter could not have been the first pope and the rock of our church if he stayed on top of that mountain for the rest of his life. We are in a similar position. We don’t see the Transfiguration every day, or at least I don’t, but we do still see glimpses of God’s glory shining through our human experience. Every time we feel peace, genuine joy, and know that we are loved we are getting a glimpse into just a fraction of the love God has for us.
It is good to sit in that love and peace, but we cannot stay there for our entire lives thinking about how cool it is. That is why we have to come down from that place to where people currently are. What we need to do is see people not as projects to be converted, but as people to meet, know and love. One of the greatest gifts God has given us is that He includes us in His plan for salvation. Meaning that God doesn’t “need our help” to save souls, but He still wants our participation. God wants us to help because He knows that we are human and that we crave human interaction, not because God “can’t do it”. That is why it is so important for us to reach out to friends and family that have fallen away from the church, to smile at the people we walk by, to volunteer to give back to the poor and homeless, and to discern our vocation seriously. More often than not, all people need is a somebody to be genuinely human to come back to the church, and that is something we need to do face to face, not from a mountain.
St Peter, Pray for us!