In our Gospel today, Peter wishes to prolong the Transfiguration experience: “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” (Lk. 9:35). St Luke makes it clear that he did not know what he was saying. Dazzled by his vision of divine glory, Peter was not in a hurry to go back to the everyday struggles of earthly life, and so he sought to abide in that extraordinary moment.
However, that was only but a foretaste of the beatific vision. It was not the main deal. What about us? How do we react to events of such magnitude in our lives – when the power of God is so palpable? Surely, we all can be like Peter in so many different ways. We’ve all experienced incredibly profound moments of intense joy that we wished would not end. Such moments we describe as “absolutely incredible”, “awesome”, “fantastic”, “breathtaking”, etc. Sadly,such occasions do not endure because we cannot achieve supreme happiness here on earth. With every scientific breakthrough, we realize how much more we do not know. Every new invention, instead of offering durable satisfaction, rather opens a whole new vista of opportunities begging to be explored.
The Television was a revolutionary invention that changed the way people lived. Then we had the mobile phone, and a whole new threshold was crossed. Next was Internet, and the world became a global village.Today, we live in the age of unprecedented interconnectedness, and yet we are no happier now than a hundred years ago. The more we discover the more there is to discover. The wealthier we become the more selfish and unhappy we turn out to be, and the more we retreat into our little private space. And this trend will continue until Christ returns. As St Augustine says, our hearts will remain restless until they rest in God. Thus, we must look beyond the comforts and pleasures of this present life and work for a lasting happiness.
Returning to Peter’s excitement, we’ve all had our own Transfiguration moments – when we felt the overwhelming power of God, and we knew without a shadow of doubt that he was right there with us. Maybe it was a retreat. Possibly it was our first communion. It could have been the birth of a child. Perhaps it was when we went to confession after a very long time and got overwhelmed by power of grace and divine mercy. It could have been in the middle of a sickness, death or some other tragedy in the family, and we felt the hand of God comforting us. Perhaps it was a seemingly helpless situation and someone came to our aid when all hopes had been lost. Such are the moments that make us cry out, like Jacob after his ladder from heaven experience: “The Lord is in this place, and I did not know it”(Gen. 28:16).
God gives us those moments for a reason, just like he did to Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration. Such are meant to give us a glimpse of the greater glory that lies ahead. Jesus knew that his passion was imminent. He knew that his disciples would be shaken by the events, and so he lets them see his glory so that they may draw strength and consolation from it when facing difficulties. The Lord wanted to strengthen them against discouragements when he was no longer with them. Equally, our own awesome moments are meant to prepare us for difficulties, to assure us of the eternal consolation awaiting those who persevere till the end.
Our glorious moments are a reminder that our work remains unfinished, until we rest in Christ. The two men who appeared with Jesus at the Transfiguration each had an unfinished business. Moses worked extremely hard for his people but was only able to see the Promised Land from a distance – he did not enter. Elijah also worked tremendously hard for God and his people but his mission ended abruptly as he was snatched up to heaven by a chariot. Their appearance at the Transfiguration indicates that their work (The Law and the Prophecy) was to find fulfilment only in Christ. He is the ultimate Prophet and Lawgiver in whom all our efforts and mountain experiences find fulfilment. As we see later in the Emmaus story, Jesus opened the minds of the two disciples, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” (Luke 24:27) And even before his death, Moses told the people of: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him” (Deut. 18:15).
The Transfiguration is a proof of the divine identity and mission of Jesus for the three disciples. It was also a validation of his communion with the Father. The voice from heaven confirms him to be the Son of God. The cloud symbolizes the presence of God as the three apostles learn that Jesus is the Son of God, whom they must listen to. The appearance of Moses and Elijah shows that Jesus was not just John, or Elijah, or one of the prophets as some people thought. Jesus is the new Lawgiver who institutes a new and everlasting covenant through his “exodus”. And through his resurrection, he rescues mankind from the bondage of sin and death. The Transfiguration also confirmed that Jesus’ mission was not according to the Law and the Prophets, but the will of God for him.
Dear friends, Jesus invites us today to reflect on our own glorious moments and be moved to draw fresh breath and renewal from his fountain of mercy, so that we are able to live like true disciples. Every Eucharistic celebration is a glorious experience, a foretaste of the eternal banquet. Therefore, let today’s feast revive our drooping spirits, and inspire us to approach the throne of mercy with faith and confidence.
May the Lord give us each a glimpse of his glory today, and sustain our hunger for the beatific vision – “what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived – the things that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). Amen!