The disciples’ first reaction to the glorious event in today’s Gospel is this: ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah’. They wanted to continue the event, to hold it in place rather than let it vanish. The aspect of Jesus’s face was changed and there was a brightness, a luminescence, all of which was wonderful to behold.
People of faith often crave some sort of great miracle. We see this in the early Israelites as they put God to the test. And we see it in our own society, in our own Church. As the Israelites moved from slavery to freedom – a forty-year journey of hardship – they forgot to view their journey in macro, that is to say, they forgot to look at the whole picture, rather than at the nitty gritty. Had they have looked at the whole picture, they would have been more aware that they were part of a great miracle unfolding at the hands of God. Instead, they tested God by demanding miracles, and they were punished for it.
Just like those early Israelites, we too can forget that we are living inside a great miracle. We can concentrate too heavily on our own personal and fleeting needs, rather than taking all of the good and the bad in life and seeing it as part of the unfolding miracle. When we do experience those great moments of grace, we want them to continue, to never end. This is what the disciples wanted by asking if they could erect tents on the mountain. We seek moments of transfiguration in order to assuage our fears that faith is for nothing. Our good Lord does give us these moments, but they are buried in the hiddenness of Christian love, in the quietness of Christ’s humility. We may, experience great solace within prayer, and we feel that we should like to live in that moment forever. Some would call this a foretaste of the Heavenly Kingdom. But, just as the disciples learnt, these moments of transfiguration do end, and we are left with with very boring, humdrum lives, lives that do not speak of spiritual summits or great mystical gifts, but of normality and simplicity, of routine and (often) hardship. This is the diurnal round of monasticism, as Thomas Merton called it: ‘Christ among the pots and pans.’
The season of Lent helps us to look in macro, through a wider lens, at our spiritual journey. It is a time to pause, to take stock of how we are approaching the great, gifted journey of faith. Ultimately, it reminds us how we are asked to do as Jesus did, that is, to lead by example and to choose humility as our chosen strength. We learn that the ultimate miracle and act of selflessnes was not some bright and glorious transfiguration but death on a cross in front of jeering crowds. We still hold up the cross as our defining symbol, a symbol of love and miracle, a symbol that reminds us not only of our own fragility but of the glory that is to come. This is the greatest transfiguration that we can participate in and that will last for all eternity.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit
A reading from the Gospel according to Luke 9:28-36
Glory to you, O Lord
Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus,
‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah’.
– He did not know what he was saying.
As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying,
‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’
And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.
The Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.