Matthew 17 1 – 9
Today we hear the account of the Transfiguration of our Lord. This is a Gospel that is familiar and affords us with the gift of placing ourselves there with Jesus and Peter, James and John. We can imagine what it was like to see Jesus transfigured before our eyes with his face shining like the sun. To watch as Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah, and the three have a conversation that neither the three apostles nor we can hear. What we do know is that the Lawgiver, the Prophet and the Redeemer are together which strengthens our belief that Jesus is our long-awaited Messiah and that the “Reign of God is at hand.”
Then from a cloud we hear the voice of God the Father; “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” This is similar to the words the Father spoke at the time of Jesus’ Baptism by John, except this time the Father not only confirms that Jesus is His beloved Son, but instructs or commands the three apostles and us to “listen to him.”
They were in awe and Peter says, “Lord, it is good that we are here…” There are times in our lives when we are in awe. It could be a deep mystical moment that fills us with an inexplicable sense of God’s presence as we pray before the Blessed Sacrament. It could be a deeper than expected joy, something far greater than human joy, as we hold a new born baby. Maybe we hear a Scripture passage we have heard numerous times before, or are in a conversation when someone says something so ordinary, or listening to a favorite song, and within ourselves we sense that God is present and he is speaking to us. At these moments we can echo the words of Peter, “Lord, how it is good that we are here.” These are moments to embrace and cherish as though the Lord has invited us away from our regular experiences to a deeper experience of his presence within us.
The experience of the Transfiguration was so overwhelming that the apostles did not know how to deal with it and they responded from going from awe to fear and falling to the ground seemingly to escape the awesome reality that surrounded them. There are times when we might be overwhelmed and even fearful of our relationship with God. Times during which we are so moved by an experience of the Lord’s presence that we sense that He is calling us to do more, and we just don’t know if we can do it. Can we give anymore of ourselves to God through service, accepting the challenge to love the unlovable, more prayer? Maybe it is tragedy or sadness that has me wondering where God is, and how much more can I take?
“Rise, and do not be afraid.” These words of Jesus to Peter, James and John where all they needed to rise from laying on the ground and to rise from their fear, so as to walk with Jesus down the mountain. They were words that filled the apostles with peace. In the midst of our deepest and darkest moments of fear, Jesus is with us. He calls us with the refrains that he repeats throughout the Gospels, “Do not be afraid,” and, “Peace be with you.” For Jesus, these are not just nice words, they are part of who he is, the Prince of Peace. His peace is meant to enter deep within us to take away fear and to give us comfort, refreshment and a renewed faith to live the Gospel.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.