Jesus brings his disciples to a high place and his face is transfigured like the sun. There, his followers see Jesus in a new way, a kind of epiphany.
We may fall into the temptation to want verification from God that he exists, proof before we commit to following him. Our ancestors succumbed to the same in their forty year search through the desert. They put God to the test. But we read that the disciples in today’s Gospel were filled with fear when they saw Jesus transfigured and heard God speaking. They fell to the ground, and Christ had to come to them and say: do not be afraid.
It is difficult to imagine ourselves as limited, because we are such incredible beings, us humans. So intricate and intelligent. So extraordinary. But in comparison to God we are very small indeed. We should be grateful that Jesus comes to us as he does, that God speaks to us in the silent whisper and not in a way that constantly terrifies us.
And the message that God had for the disciples was: this is my son. Listen to him.
There is no better time than Lent to begin listening afresh to Jesus. Listen to his Gospel words, his prompts, his teachings through the tradition of the Church, his influence upon countless saints who went before us. Let us listen in a new way. We should not demand miracles from God, but attentiveness from ourselves, patience to listen and respond, humility to see ourselves as we really are.
Sometimes, our own transfiguration can be painful. We are sometimes presented with a vision of ourselves that we do not like… a vision that other people see. Our more unpleasant nature is not lost on Jesus. When he was transfigured the disciples saw what was underneath: his greatness, his strength, his wonder, his god-ness. He knows, though, that we are human and that we harbour many fears. He knows we struggle and he wishes to help us. When we see ourselves, as we are from other standpoints, that too can be terrifying. But Jesus says do not be afraid… and we listen to him so that our lives may truly, in time, transfigure into the wonder of the presence of God.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit
A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew 17:1-9
Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There,in their presence, he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus.
‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.‘ He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said,
‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’
When they heard this the disciples fell on their faces overcome with fear.
But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.‘
And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.
As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order.
“Tell no one about this vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”
The Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.