Today, August 6, is the feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. The Transfiguration is the Gospel story in which Jesus takes three of his apostles, Peter, James, and John, up a mountain where he is “transfigured” before their eyes. The story appears in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and is one of my long-time favorite gospel stories.
In all three of these gospels, this event occurs shortly after Jesus tells them for the first time that he must suffer greatly at the hands of the elders, the priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. In the Gospel of Matthew, Peter responds saying “no such thing will ever happen to you.” And Jesus appears to be angry at this, calling Peter “Satan.” Jesus then says “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Then, some days later, up the mountain they go and Christ is transfigured. It seems to me that the apostles were getting off-track a little, and Jesus needed to display his divinity so as to solidify their faith. Christ’s clothes become “dazzling white” and his face “shone like the sun.” And God the Father appeared on the scene again (as he did when Jesus was baptized), saying from a cloud “This is my beloved son with whom I am well-pleased; listen to him.” They saw a vision of Moses and Elijah with Jesus, conversing with him in an apparent scene of glorified living bodies straight from heaven.
Can you imagine the feelings that these three apostles had as they came down the mountain with Jesus, perhaps wanting to tell the world what they had just witnessed? They were probably thinking that the whole world would now believe in Jesus, just as they do. But then, Jesus tells them not to tell anyone until after the resurrection. So, in spite of their joy and excitement, they would have to wait to tell anyone. Eventually, of course, they did tell Matthew, Mark and Luke, at least, and the event did make it into the three synoptic gospels. Curiously, John chose not to record it in his Gospel, despite the fact that he was one of the three direct witnesses.
Let’s apply the Transfiguration event to modern times. It appears to me that so many people today are off-track. It would seem that we need a transfiguration event to bring them back. But Jesus appears to be silent. Notice that he allowed only Peter, James and John to see him in his glorified state and asked them to be silent as well. We are now living in a time “after the Resurrection” and the event has been recorded in the gospels for all to see. So we only have the Church and her faithful people to spread the word of this miracle, just like all the other miracles that Jesus performed, knowing that they have been recorded in Scripture.
Remember the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16: 19-31)? The rich man wanted Abraham to warn his five brothers “lest they too come to this place of torment.” Abraham’s response: “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” I think the modern day response might be something like this: “If they will not listen to the Church and Sacred Scripture, neither will they be persuaded if the headline news told of a new transfiguration event.”
My prayer for today: Lord, please have pity on your people on earth and give them the grace to think as God does and not as human beings do so that they may come to know you and to love you during their earthly lives and have no regrets in the afterlife. Amen