Jesus took Peter, James and his brother John with him and led them up a high mountain alone. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.” (Matthew 17:1-3)*_
Last Sunday, Jesus gave us three parables about wisdom. While some accidentally stumble upon wisdom, some deliberately search for it, and those who know its value are willing to let go (be detached) of everything they own to acquire wisdom. Wisdom is putting God first in everything. Wisdom is putting God’s commandments above our quest for material riches knowing that God knows how to provide for his children. Wisdom is also being patient and learning to accept whatever comes our way.
As always, our liturgy today is packed with lessons for our meditation:
*1. Prayer is a Portal (Door) into the Supernatural*
There is a song we often sing: “Prayer is the key. Prayer is the master key. Jesus started with prayer and ended with prayer. Prayer is the master key.” Like Moses, who climbed Mount Sinai and encountered God in a thick cloud, Matthew says that Jesus took Peter, James and John to a high mountain. The mountain was always a place of encounter, a place removed from the general population – a place of prayer. In Luke’s Gospel, we read: “Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.” (Luke 9:28-29)
To encounter God, we must “climb the mountain.” That is, we must retreat from the world, inconvenience ourselves by switching off our phones, turning off the television and radio or going to a place where we can “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Whenever we start praying, something lights up within us; we begin to feel God’s presence more than ever before, and if God so permits, He also opens our eyes to see Him for who He is.
Like the treasure hidden in a field a man discovered, Peter, James and John were privileged to discover (experience) the true nature of Jesus Christ while on the mountain of prayer. They saw that Jesus’ divinity had been veiled in his humanity and that Jesus was the one about whom Daniel wrote in today’s First Reading. Daniel saw Jesus and described him as the “one of great age” whose “robe was white as snow, the hair of his head as pure as wool. His throne was a blaze of flames; its wheels a burning fire.”
Although we describe the event as a transfiguration, Jesus’ figure did change. Instead, what happened was that God opened the eyes of Peter, James and John, allowing them for a brief moment to behold Jesus’ divine nature. Jesus did not stop shining afterwards; they couldn’t see it. Even at birth, Jesus shone so brightly that wise men from the East saw his star. Jesus never stopped shining after they returned to their homes. Jesus did not stop shining when He went to his hometown and could not do many mighty works there.
Jesus did not stop shining when He carried the cross when the soldiers spat at Him, divided His garments and made a mockery of Him. Jesus has not stopped shining today. Jesus will shine during this Mass when the priest says: “Behold the Lamb of God.” The question is: “Will you be conscious enough to see His radiance?”
*2. Heaven is not a Figment of Imagination.*
If you have never experienced something, you would never know such exists. Even when others tell you about it, you may doubt it. However, no one can make you deny or doubt your experience. During the transfiguration experience, Peter, James and John discovered that those who die in communion with God continue to live. They saw and immediately recognised Moses and Elijah even though they never met them while they lived on Earth.
Hence, in today’s second reading, Peter confessed: “It was not any cleverly invented myths that we were repeating when we brought you the knowledge and power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Heaven is not some clever myth created by religion to force people into morally upright lives. Neither is the concept of hell a myth to scare people. You are free to doubt their existence, but if you fail to carry some extra oil along with your lamp, you will be the one to blame when you are stopped at the gate of the Wedding Feast.
*3. Encourage One Another.*
The fact that Moses and Elijah were there to strengthen Jesus’ faith teaches us that we all need encouragement. As humans, there are moments we become scared, worried or troubled. Sometimes, we feel like dropping the cross or taking the easier route. There are moments when we need a pat on the back, words of soothing relief and experiences to remind us that we are still on the right track.
Learn to be Moses and Elijah to those around you who may be discouraged. Learn to use kind words in talking. The book of Proverbs tells us: “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24). Many people are going through a lot today, but outwardly, they look healthy and happy. Occasionally, call that brother or sister who is doing well to say: “Well done, keep it up.” Do not wait until you hear something bad about someone before you remember them.
Your life doesn’t have to be perfect to encourage others. Do not say, “No one encourages me; why should I encourage someone else?” Moses did not find it funny dealing with the Israelites while attempting to lead them into the Promised Land. He was always at the receiving end of their constant complaints and rebellion. Elijah stood as one man against the Four Hundred and Fifty prophets of Baal and then found himself running from Jezebel. Like Moses, Elijah dealt with stiff-necked people bent on turning away from God, yet he never gave up.
While the experience boosted Jesus’ faith, it also boosted the faith of Peter, James and John. Jesus allowed them to experience the transfiguration to show them that beyond the self-denials, beyond the tears, beyond the blood to be shared, beyond the beatings, persecutions, and agonies of the cross, there was something beautiful, something resplendent, something so precious that was awaiting them at the end of the day.
*4. We Don’t Need Three Tents: We Only Need to Listen to Jesus.*
Like the man who was so excited about discovering the treasure in the field and rushed to do something (to make the field his permanent possession), Peter wanted to do something that would establish the permanence of the Transfiguration. Peter wanted to build three tents. He must have felt disappointed when they were suddenly left alone with Jesus and had to walk back down the mountain as if nothing had happened.
We all experience transfiguration now and then – moments of excitement, discovery, or joy. Sometimes, we may experience ecstasy while in prayer; we may even see a vision or receive an apparition of Jesus or the Saints. These things come and go. They are highlights of our journey, not destinations in themselves. We can never make them permanent. Do not be a miracle-seeking Christian. God is with us even in the most ordinary events of life.
Peter was still speaking when God interrupted him. “Suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud, a voice said: ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him, I am well pleased; listen to him!’” (Matthew 17:5). We don’t need three tents, we only need to keep quiet and listen to Jesus.
Let us pray: Almighty and ever-living God, increase my devotion that amid trials and persecution, my faith may remain unshaken. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: Daniel 7:9-10,13-14, Ps. 97:1-2,5-6,9, 2 Peter 1:16-19, Matthew 17:1-9).*
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu