The Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus – August 6
The Transfiguration of Jesus was reported in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, as well as in the second letter of Peter. Jesus and three disciples, Peter, James and John, went up a high mountain (traditionally identified as Mt. Tabor) and “He was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” Two men joined Jesus on the mountain top and spoke with Him there, Moses and Elijah – representing the Law and the Prophets. Peter, ever ready to act, offered to put up three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. But just then a cloud overshadowed them all and a voice from the cloud proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The disciples fell down and were terrified when they heard the voice, but Jesus touched them and told them not to be afraid. He also told them not to tell anyone else about what they had seen “until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Mt 17:1-9)
Following the Transfiguration, Jesus continued on his way to Jerusalem and his eventual death and resurrection. Only following the Resurrection did the experience on the mountain top make sense to Peter, James and John.
While most of us don’t have such dramatic “mountain top experiences,” in the course of our lives as believers we do have special times. It may be our Baptism or First Communion. It may be Confirmation. It may be an experience of healing through Reconciliation or Anointing of the Sick. It may be a homily that particularly spoke to a trouble or concern and gave the hope needed to continue moving forward in faith. Sometimes the mountain top comes during private personal prayer. Sometimes it comes during a group activity.
Mountain top experiences are to be treasured. They don’t happen often. And they are always followed by a return to the ordinary activities of life – activities that seem dull, boring, unimportant, even worthless, in comparison with where we have been and what we have experienced. Yet both are part of life and both move us forward on the path to our ultimate goal, union with the Lord.
When you’ve had a mountain top experience, be patient with yourself and with your family and friends who may or may not have shared it with you. It’s not easy to jump back into the hustle and bustle of daily life. Do what has to be done to keep soul and body together (i.e. prepare meals, get some rest, go to work, “chop wood, carry water”), but do these activities with an awareness that there’s a transcendent reality just beyond your ability to perceive it normally, that gives meaning to all of the day to day activities of life.
As time goes on, you’ll undoubtably have cause to remember the mountain top and draw on the strength and consolation you experienced there. Jesus went from the mountain top to the cross. His followers rarely have to crash quite so dramatically into disgrace and apparent failure as He did, but the hard times will come – no need to go looking for them. And when they come, try to remember the love you experienced on the mountain top. Our God loves you – just as you are – and will be with you in the hard times as well as the good times. Jesus went before us, and He stands with us. On the mountain top and in all the other times as well.