Reflection on the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
This has always been a special day for me. I had the privilege of visiting Mount Tabor, the very place where this event took place. It is a fairly high mountain; the bus could not go all the way. We had the choice of walking the rest of the way or riding in a car with a reckless driver. I chose to walk. Our time there was spent in quiet reflection. The word awesome is overused but in this instance, it holds true. It was an awesome experience.
I’ve had a lot of time to think these days and I reflected off and on about the emotions Jesus might have had during this experience of the transfiguration. What did he feel? lt is so easy to fall into that old pattern of thinking he was divine and immune to feelings. But Jesus was fully human, experiencing love, compassion, anger, fear and very likely moments of doubt. He knew what happened to John the Baptist. He knew that he was treading in dangerous territory. How many times did he ask himself if this was the right way to get his message across. Was this really what the Father wanted him to do?
Apparently he was grooming Peter, James and John for leadership. He took them along on several occasions. So what was this event meant to be? Time alone with them? Did Jesus really expect something to happen?
So they arrive and this spectacular event happens. What did Moses, Ellijah and Jesus talk about? Peter, impetuous Peter wants to put up three tents and stay awhile. But then the voice rings out, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased!” Step into Jesus’ sandals for a moment. Joy, surprise, elation, validation, loved, trusted, encouraged, strengthened, grateful. This event would give him courage to continue on in his mission. The three disciples, meantime, are terrified and fall prostrate on the ground. Jesus reassures them that everything is OK and it is time to move on back down the mountain. But their lives were forever changed by the experience. They were transformed.
Haven’t we all been transformed at different times in our lives, not by an experience as marvelous as what the disciples and Jesus had, but by something more mundane? We learned about the Loretto Community and decided to join the group. It transformed us. We answered the call to go to South America or Africa and discovered a whole new world. It changed our perspective on life forever. But there have been other kinds of things — a new job, a new friend, an educational experience, a new place to live and work, even a new hobby. These are events that can transform us for the better if we let them.
Sometimes transformative events are hard to accept and we can get stuck. A loved one dies and we feel lost and it is difficult to move on. The Loretto Congregation now has only 95 members. Changes in health slow us down, loss of independence is a big one: when we are forced to give up things we enjoyed doing because we are no longer able to do them well. Those kinds of events are more difficult. How we handle them is what makes them transformative or not and it may take time. To accept may be difficult but not to accept may make us bitter and resentful.
We can take comfort in the fact that Jesus experienced life in the same way we do and showed us how to come down the mountain and continue our journey and our work of building the reign of God right here in our little patch of the universe.