"Transfiguration and it's Derailment"
August 2, 2023, 6:00 AM

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to Jesus. [Moses and Elijah] appeared in glory and were speaking of [Jesus’] departure [death], which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Just as they were leaving, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said.  Luke 9:28,30-31, 33-34

While St. Francis encountered the risen Christ, he never spoke about the encounter when Jesus, Moses, and Elijah shown with a great light. The church today calls this type of event a transfiguration, which means a radical change in appearance from the mundane to a spiritual one.

The telling of Biblical stories is central to our understanding of Christian life. Some stories are more elusive than others, like the story of the Transfiguration. This particular story can be confusing, and it is often relegated to one of nonimportance. However, unusual stories can still hold significant insight into our everyday lives. While each story occurs as a Biblical event in the past, every story is also a reflection of something that is still occurring in our own lives. We like to think that the unfamiliar Transfiguration story has nothing to do with us, and it doesn’t really matter to our spiritual growth. God then throws a curveball our way to jostle our know-it-all ego into submission.

While there is a large mystery with the appearance of Jesus with his outstretched arms bringing together Moses (the historic introducer of Jewish law) and Elijah (the paramount figure among the prophets), there is also a not so hidden mystery in the actions of the disciples. The disciples were tired and sleepy.

Think of how you and I might act when getting out of bed when we are drowsy and, perhaps, disoriented trying to figure where we are and what we need to do as our feet hit the floor. It is in this same state of bewilderment that we encounter the disciples. Seeing three people, appearing in a bright, glowing light might make anyone wonder whether or not they are still dreaming. It is this dreamlike state that confounds us, and also offers us a chance to absorb the mystery. It is much like entering a time of contemplative prayer. All is well, even though it might not make sense to our minds. We find ourselves being offered an opportunity to simply experience an ineffable God.

Our human nature and desire then enter the picture. Like the disciples, we try to figure out what is happening. When we are unable to figure it out, we attempt to ascribe meaning to the experience. Our limited minds go into overdrive, and make something out of what was meant to simply be an experience with the Holy One.

We read that just as they were leaving, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah —not knowing what he said.” Peter did not know what he really had said because he did not recall what Jesus had just said. Jesus spoke about his departure or death which was to happen in Jerusalem. Not an insignificant upcoming event! Peter missed the conversation entirely. He was too caught up in creating a way out of his own anxiety, and never paid attention to the larger picture that Jesus was painting.

How often do we fail to listen to the important conversations around us? Are we more about telling others what we are going to do than listening to the real-life journeys on which others are on? Transfigurations are occurring around us all the time. We simply fail to see them and understand their message because we may be too frequently announcing to others the glorious projects that we wish to undertake (all in the name of God).

On this celebration of the Transfiguration, listen, behold, set aside projects, and experience the Transfiguration in its simplicity. Forget broadcasting like Peter, and let the silence of God fill all of your senses.

Prayers and Blessings,

Fr. John