The Gospel for March 12th, 2017: The Transfiguration
Reflection: Rest on Faith and Listen
The Transfiguration gospel speaks to my need for control and familiar routines. I have spent years trying to strategically respond to and ultimately control the circumstances of my life with a highly self-centered focus. When the unfamiliar comes, do I see God’s gentle hands at work? No, I am terrified by that which I don’t understand and desperately try to first, wrap my mind around it, and second wrap my arms around it to hold and control.
I see Peter react similarly at first in his experience with Jesus, James, and John high on the mountain. In this rarified air, Jesus reveals more of His divine presence than Peter is ready to understand based on his previous experience. Jesus’ appearance is magnified by a brilliant light, and He manifests His fulfillment of Old Testament law and prophecy by appearing to converse with Moses and Elijah (2-3).
Peter, in his disorientation, grasps on to this glimmer of recognition and tries to react with a familiar plan. He suggests to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (4). There is nothing wrong with this plan from a logical standpoint. It is rooted in tradition. His intentions are honorable and respectful. And yet, it is not God’s will that he try to tame this moment within the limits of tradition. Peter, James, and John are in the midst of genuine encounter with their God in the person of a fully divine Jesus the Son. If they watch and listen, they will grow closer to their salvation.
So God the Father intervenes and tells them, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to [H]im” (5). Now if the transfiguration of Jesus was overwhelming, a direct encounter with God in heaven is terrifying. They “fell prostrate and were very much afraid” (7). In this moment of distress, Jesus comforts them, and when they look up, “[T]hey saw no one else but Jesus alone” (8).
Just like the Transfiguration, our encounters with God may manifest themselves as disorienting, frightening experiences, ones we mistakenly try to avoid or end quickly. If we let go of the natural desire to control these experiences—“to listen—“we too may hear God and be comforted by Jesus in those moments. May the deprivation of comforts of Lenten fasting and almsgiving open our hearts to such experiences, instead of trying to fear and control them. It may be that deliverance from sin and death lies in resting on faith and listening for the voice of Jesus.