Sunday, August 08, 2004

It is good for us to be here

This week the Church calendar offered us an opportunity to reflect on the Transfiguration, an event which I admit I have never spent that much time thinking about. Partly, I don't understand it. Partly, I suffer from some of the personal exuberance that Peter displays here, to his embarrassment and (by extrapolation) mine. But I saw something different this time around.

A short summary: Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain to pray. While Jesus is praying, his face becomes radiant and his clothes turn dazzlingly white. This, as you can imagine, gets the disciples' attention, and they are astonished to see that Elijah and Moses are talking with Jesus, also glorious in appearance. Peter utters perhaps one of his most profound statements ever -- "It is good for us to be here" -- and then instantly jumps to the mistaken conclusion that what's needed is for him to leap into action -- "Let's build three booths in tribute to you, Moses and Elijah." At this point, God the Father who is clearly determined to drive home His point, engulfs them in a cloud from which a voice echoes: "This is my chosen Son; listen to him."

What if we were to look at this passage from the point of view, not of the disciples, but of Moses or Elijah? The Old Testament teaches us that they were used powerfully by God, Moses to prepare the way for the law, and Elijah to prepare the way for the Messiah. Here, finally, they get to see the Word made Man with their very eyes as God fulfills his will in a way more magnificent than they could have possibly guessed. Jesus is transfigured; Moses and Elijah get to share in the reflected glory of the Son. It is God the Son's glory, not theirs.

But Jesus had not yet taken the sin of the world upon himself. Moses and Elijah, like Peter, James and John are waiting, for what they cannot even guess. While we are yet sinners, God is preparing to do more than we can ask or imagine in order to bring us into union with Him. What the disciples see on Mount Tabor is a preview of what will happen to us. We will all be changed. Jesus' glory will be clearly reflected in us as he finishes what he set out to do.


Therese Z said...

I'd always thought of Moses and Elijah as coming in person to testify to the apostles, good Jews, that Jesus was the Messiah.

I hadn't thought of Moses and Elijah as awaiting their own redemption! But of course it's true.

Thanks for this insight. I'm still puzzling over how I would have reacted had I been there. Old helpful Therese Z probably would have been pounding in the tent pegs, fussing about in another Martha reaction to the glory of the Lord.

Isn't it good that this is now a Luminous Mystery? We can spend every Thursday pondering this.



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