The Miracle of the Transfiguration
In all three Gospel accounts, Peter sees the glorified body of Jesus, along with the presence of Moses and Elijah, and offers to build booths for them. His intent to do so is likely so that this heralding of the Messiah — demonstrated by the presence of Elijah and Moses, as Scripture foretold — might be seen and celebrated by all. Instead, Jesus tells the apostles that they should stay quiet, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead. (Mt 17:9)
Peter’s instincts were not misguided, just misdirected. “To bring others to Christ” and “let others see and know what we have seen and what we know” is, of course, our Gospel mandate. But Jesus was not to remain on that mountainside — his death and resurrection would be how God’s saving plan for his people would be accomplished. The Transfiguration was meant to strengthen the apostles’ faith and assure them of his divine nature, in anticipation that his crucifixion would strike fear in their hearts. God the Father even spoke: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Mt 17:5)
This charge — to listen to Jesus — was meant not just for the three apostles present, but for all of us. We shouldn’t simply hear Jesus’ words but listen, as in let Jesus’ message sink in deeply and move us to action. To listen to Jesus means to heed him. As Jesus was transfigured, giving us a preview of sorts of the glorified life with God that awaits us all, we are transformed by our encounter with him. That transformation is meant to make us closer to Jesus not just in our relationship with him, but in who we are: Christ-like in our interactions with others; loving one another in the same selfless, self-sacrificing way that God loves us.
Society loves to label people, but what if we approached everyone we met — both family and strangers — as the fellow children of God that they are? If we perceive others as having human dignity, made in the image and likeness of God, we encounter the Lord in them. Looking at others mercifully through the eyes of Christ can foster forgiveness, bring personal healing and strengthen our human relationships. The miracle of the Transfiguration shows us that following Jesus in word and deed is what we are called to do. With this perspective, we can transform our lives and the lives of others.
The feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord is Friday, Aug. 6.