Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
Those of us who get our news from our tablets and laptops have noticed that at the bottom of the particular outlet’s web page are smaller pictures of lesser news items and a grab-bag of features. One of the latter items that caught my eye one day was an invitation to compare photos of celebrities from their youth with their present-day looks. So amid a clutter of pesky ads were page after page of these comparisons.
Some of them were amusing and others shocking. The aging process affects us all in ways that differ so widely. Some of these famous people looked well-preserved, likely aided by cosmetic surgery. Others have not fared so well. The transformation of all that were shown, however, gave proof that the passage of time will win out.
Notice I wrote the word “transformation.” The mysterious event in Our Lord’s earthly life that we call His “Transfiguration” belongs in its own unique category. For a brief time, as we measure change, the Divine nature of our Savior burst through the bonds of His human nature and shone with a brilliance that dazzled the trio of Peter, James and John much like it would any of us. The fact that two great luminaries of Israel’s history, Moses and Elijah, were in dialogue with the Divine reassures us of life beyond the grave. They represented the law and the Prophets respectively, the twin pillars of Israel’s life with Yahweh.
I find it so reassuring that all this was not some kind of mirage when our beloved St. Peter blurts out: “Lord it is good to be here!” Of course it is. This is an unexpected glimpse of heaven. This is possibility raised to a higher power than we could imagine on our own.
No matter how much ignorance we have to contend with about what happens after death, the Church’s belief and teaching, based largely on St. Paul, that our bodies will be changed, glorified and transfigured, this incident gives the most powerful witness to that belief.
I’ve often thought that the Church presents us with this account from Luke’s gospel in the early part of Lent as a kind of spiritual “pep rally.” It gets us charged up for victory over our sins through the voluntary penances we take on in this purple clad season. It is a confident answer to the “Why question” about penance in general and Lenten penance in particular.
Note that the transfiguration did not last so long as to have Peter, James and John forget about the reality of this “valley of tears” we presently inhabit. Down from the mountain came the three, with Jesus, minus visible glory walking down with them. Always the mission. Always the reality of lost souls needing hope and sinful souls needing mercy. That, my friends, is us. But let Luke’s story stoke the fire of hope in our souls that when our earthly journey comes to an end, it really will be good to be there with Jesus.
Reading I: Genesis 15: 5-12, 17-18: Abraham’s trust in Yahweh wins Yahweh’s favor. A covenant follows which seals Abraham’s faith. The smoking oven and flames represent Yahweh’s side.
Reading II: Philippians 3: 17-4:1, or 3: 20-4:1:Though the new age beckons, Christians are already citizens of the heavenly city. By our own dying and rising with Christ, our bodies will be transformed.
The Gospel: Luke 9: 28b-36: Jesus’ marvelous transfiguration features a conversation with Moses and Elijah, representing respectively the Law and the Prophets. Jesus’ transfiguration prefigures our own.