Feast of the Transfiguration
During a recent conversation with a 14-year-old, I learned of his intense interest in cosmology. He loves studying stars with his telescope on clear nights, is amazed the energy of the sun never seems depleted. The wonder of the infinite number of galaxies and the stunning photos of previously unknown discoveries being sent to earth from James Webb telescope filled his chatter.
The beauty of a 14-year-old mind is its simplicity. Although deeply penetrating in his questions, he is equally astonished by his awakenings to new knowledge, uncluttered by adult subtleties and nuance.
As we mature we devote more energy and time to the essentials of life: career, relationships, income, cleaning toilets, and grocery shopping. In the whirlwind of daily living, time for wonder, time for prayer, time for doing nothing under a shade tree all are surrendered to the need to care for loved ones, job advancement, daily duties to keep faithful to our commitments.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus led his three friends on a hike up a mountain, away from their daily have-to’s. If you have ever hiked with a friend, you know it can be a special time for spontaneous conversation. I imagine this is what happened to these friends on this trek. At the summit (figuratively and literally), when they witness Jesus’ conversing with two super heroes of Jewish history . . . Moses and Elijah . . . awareness of who Jesus is dramatically dawns on his buddies. This realization is so astonishing, so surprising, so thrilling that Peter, in all his exuberance, says he’ll make three tents and we’ll have a group campout right here!
But the thrill of the moment wasn’t completed. Right before their eyes, from a bright cloud, a voice said “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
That’s it. The three friends are scared out of their minds and fall to the ground. What the heck was happening, they no doubt wondered, shaking in fear.
The next lines of the Gospel tell of the tenderness of Jesus. He must have known his friends had been over-stimulated and traumatized by something beyond all usual human experience. He approaches each of them, gently touches them and tells them to get up “. . . and do not be afraid.”
My hunch is the three friends walked speechless down that mountain.
We may never have such a mystical experience of heavenly glory on this side of the grave. But, if we are as open to the awesomeness of creation as that 14 year old boy is, we can catch a glimpse of realities far beyond daily routines.
As Passionist Father Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP, has written, “Occasionally (heavenly glory’s) inspirations and insights, its secret hopes and joys, break through and transfigure, at least monetarily, the surface doldrums of our life. These are those wonderful yet awesome moments when God summons us to leap beyond all earthly limitations and with our earthy body performs heroic deeds. These moments are fleeting dreams come true.” (Biblical Meditations for Lent, p. 99)
Being like a 14-year-old, uncluttered-thinking boy again can make space for the awesome moments Fr. Stuhlmueller describes. Today, perhaps you can take a walk with Jesus to your own mountain and let Jesus give a glimpse of wonders beyond your capacity to imagine. And just like Jesus and his followers, you may go beyond human limitations and perform your own heroic deeds today.
.Jim Wayne is a board member of the Passionist Solidarity Network (PSN), and author of The Unfinished Man. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.