Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
Dn 7:9-10, 13-14
Today’s Gospel tells us of Peter, James and John being led by Jesus to a high mountain where they are given the extraordinary gift of witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus and the appearance of Moses and Elijah, their spiritual ancestors. What a heart-pounding, exalting, strange yet wondrous experience this must have been for the three. Perhaps it was frightening in addition to being exhilarating; maybe they wanted to shout their experience from the mountaintop even though Jesus asked them not to speak of their experience to anyone.
For most of us, in times of doubt or suffering, we may wish that God would reveal himself so radiantly to us as He did to Peter, James and John. What a comfort it might be to see Jesus right before our very eyes, transformed and transforming us from doubters to believers.
Or maybe, even when we are blessed with a deep spiritual experience, we may want it to last, to assume a concrete permanence that we can return to as we wish. Peter says to Jesus, "If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." Who can’t relate to Peter’s very humble and heartfelt wish to make a home for His Savior, to remain with Jesus "up there on the mountaintop" in the grip of a spiritual experience that is life-changing.
But faith is not lived on the mountaintops, and we cannot control our experience of it. For most of us, faith is lived daily in the ordinary stuff of life — in the big and small kindnesses we do for others, in our frail but deliberate attempts to reach out to God, in our embrace of the mysteries of the Spirit. And often our spirituality is not something we can even describe to others. How frustrating it must have been for Peter, James and John to be asked not to share their experience! But Jesus guides them, like He often guides us, to hold our experience of God in our own hearts; to be with it in quiet until more is revealed at the moment of God’s choosing.
What stands out is Jesus’ gentle touch reminding them, "Rise, and do not be afraid." That is the spiritual gift we can hold onto. Whatever our spiritual experience is, we are not alone and we need not fear. We have only to trust and be open to those God-given moments when the Spirit is revealed to us.