Today’s Gospel reading is better appreciated in context. In the preceding chapter, before Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” After being pressed, Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the Christ.” Before they could triumph in their close relationship with this “Messiah” and what glory that would bring them, Jesus reveals the future: suffering, rejection and death. This was such a terrible shock to the apostles; they couldn’t accept it. Peter cries out, “This cannot happen to you!” Jesus replies, “Get behind me, Satan.”
It is in this depressing situation of misunderstanding and disillusionment that the Transfiguration takes place, six days later. On the mountain Jesus is suddenly transformed. Moses and Elijah appear to be talking with Jesus. The message is clear: Moses and Elijah fully endorse what Jesus is doing and saying and the future he has foretold about his suffering and death. Then a cloud appears and covers them. This was not simply a change in the weather. For a Jewish person, it represented the presence of Yahweh. A voice from the cloud declares: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” A supreme endorsement of the Son by his Father. Yes, listen to him even when he says things that you don’t like, things that you do not yet understand.
This special moment of encouragement will help the apostles through the difficult days ahead, though they will not fully understand until after the Resurrection and the experience of Pentecost, when they will boldly proclaim the Cross and not hesitate to carry daily their own cross.
The second reading invites us to meditate on this event, “as a lamp shining in a dark place.” May the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ be an encouragement to us to faithfully continue our journey, even when we don’t understand all that God is doing in our lives.
Fr. Don Webber resides in Chicago.