“No eye has seen, and no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things which God has prepared for those who love him.” Today’s transfiguration story is not just God’s dream for Jesus but for all of us. It’s our future. St. Paul speaks about the end time when ‘the Lord Jesus will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body’ (Ph 3:21). Notice this is God’s plan for us and not some concocted dream of our own. Just before today’s reading in Genesis 12 and we see what happens when human beings follow their own dreams — it somehow goes to their heads. “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” The result of this dream was the Tower of Babel and, hey presto, the very thing they wanted to avoid happened. They were scattered over the face of the earth.
It was at this low point that God calls Abraham and Sarah to set out on a new journey and do a new deed. It’s a pattern often repeated in Scripture and in our lives. When God wants to do something new, God begins by calling us away from all our mediocrity and dull routine. Nor is God dismayed by our fear, our clutching after false securities, our lack of faith and courage. We are called to travel without maps, to make the path by walking. It will not be an easy ride. There will be suffering and setbacks and many a bump on the road. Nevertheless, we are promised a future where our hopes will be transformed and fulfilled.
God continues to intervene down through history and we notice that mountain tops play a significant part in these interventions. They turn out to be special places for meeting God. Moses, having climbed the Mount Sinai, experiences a God encounter, and the tablets of the Law are given to him. He comes back down that mountain trail with his face beaming, even though he himself is unaware of it.
In today’s gospel, Jesus climbs another mountain, Mount Tabor. Lo and behold, Jesus too is all aglow, and it’s not just his face, but his garments as well are shining and dazzling. Furthermore, he is in conversation with two greats from the Old Testament. On one side is Moses the giver of the Law, and on the other is Elijah, the leader of the great line of prophets. In the centre is Jesus on whom hangs all the Law of all the prophets. All this proves too much for the disciples. Peter is not too sure what he is saying when he asks for three booths. There, on that holy mountain, in this transfiguring, life-changing experience for Jesus, it may well be that the ones most changed, most transfigured, are Peter, James and John. To find Jesus in the company of Moses and Elijah is already awesome. But to discover that this Jesus is no longer just the great prophet and teacher, but something much more is truly mind blowing. He is the Holy One, and a Voice affirms it, “This is My Beloved Son. Listen to him.” They never recover from that moment. From now on their faces are set for a journey to another mountain — Mount Moriah, Jerusalem, to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
For us to be transfigured demands that we also must heed that Voice from Heaven: ‘listen to him!’ Jesus is not to be confused with anyone else, not even with Moses and Elijah. Only Jesus is the beloved Son of God, only he has his face ‘shining like the sun’. In other times God had revealed God’s will by means of the ten commandments. Now God’s will is summed up and made concrete in only one command: listen to Jesus. Listening establishes the true relationship between Jesus and his followers.
Many people only know Jesus from hearsay. His name sounds familiar maybe, but what they know of him doesn’t go any further than some memories and impressions from childhood. Even more, though they call themselves Christians, they live without hearing Jesus in their heart. And without that experience, it’s not possible to know his unmistakable peace or his power to encourage and sustain our lives.
When a believer stops to listen to Jesus in silence, in her conscience within, she always hears something like this: “Don’t be afraid. Abandon yourself in complete simplicity to the mystery of God. The little faith you have is enough. Don’t be upset. If you listen to me, you will discover that God’s love consists in always forgiving you. And if you believe this, your life will change. You will know peace of heart. You will be transformed.”
Like Abraham, to risk the journey of faith into the heartland of God, involves leaving behind all that holds us back. It may not mean the exact same as Abraham, that of leaving our country and our father’s house, but we will have to leave behind our old ways, the pride and selfish desires, the hard heart, the anger, the envy and the falsehood. “And go to the land I shall show…” The direction of our pilgrimage is not geographical but moral: “Go towards charity, purity, sharing in truth and prayer and good-will. Go in the way of the gospel.”
In the book of Revelation, we find this passage: “Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share a meal at that person’s side.” Jesus calls at the door of Christians and non-Christians. We can open the door for him or we can reject him. But it’s not the same to live with Jesus as to live without him.
Sunday, 12th March 2017