6 August 2009. Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord
Deuteronomy 7, 9-14; Psalm 97; 2 Peter 1, 16-19; Mark 9, 2-10
The Transfiguration was one of the greatest hinges in Jesus’ life. From this point, He went out to Jerusalem and thus straight to the cross. Before this event, He asked His disciples who He was, and who they believed Him to be. Peter’s answer was, “You are the Messiah, the Son of God.” But then just as anyone who would make a decisive step in His life, Jesus sought the confirmation of God. A friend of mine entered into a discernment retreat. He would like to seek confirmation whether his decision of entering the seminary was the right thing to do. The same thing with Jesus: He would never take any step without the approval of God.
So Jesus went up to the mountain to pray. Mountains were believed to be the nearest place to God; a place where the greatest men and women went to meet God. In the Gospel, Moses and Elijah, two great men of the Old Testament appeared in dazzling white. The evangelist Luke suggested that the Transfiguration was a fruit of Jesus’ prayer. Prayer preceded an important event.
I have three points today.
Foremost point: Prayer transfigures us. It awakens us about who we are. It was during His prayer that Jesus was transfigured. Likewise, saints had often transfigured in their prayer and adoration. This is not surprising: prayer is an encounter with the Father. It configures us to God, at least spiritually if not physically, as in the case of Jesus and the saints. If we remain faithful in prayer, it is certain that God will communicate to us in this life something of His peace, joy and love.
Moreover, if prayer awakens us, how are we awakened? Life has full of things that makes us conscious.
First is sorrow. When our heart breaks from a relationship, we suddenly become aware of relationships and its importance. We get to see how our behavior and attitude contributes to the separation. We become aware of the other person; and how different they are from us. Disagreements magnifies this. We realize that we are unique and relationships mean respecting this uniqueness.
Second is love. Two people fall in love. One looks at the other, and the other returns the look. Then suddenly life becomes colorful and new. Love makes us see our similarities and thus relationships mean sharing what we commonly love.
Third is the sense of need. Often we have lived our lives like walking on clouds. But when we are suddenly beset by problems, or face a very unsettling question, or have been overmastered by temptation, we change. Some of these experiences are painful, such as terminal sickness and a debilitating disease. Some regain their faith when they is no one to turn to but God. The illness awakens one to God. These struggles makes us realize that we are God’s children who are totally dependent on Him. And thus, our relationships are about finding when and where we can collaborate viz a viz our similarities and differences
My final point: All that enables us to be transfigured --- prayer, sorrow, love, the sense of need ---- should enable us to face our Jerusalems, our crosses and our sufferings in ordinary life. After the Transfiguration, the disciples once again finds Jesus in His ordinary appearance, and normal life resumes its course. Only after the Resurrection did they again see Jesus in His glory.
The same thing for us. After great consolations, beautiful liturgical celebrations, uplifting retreats and prayer sessions that fill us with fervor, we find once again the grayness of ordinary life. This is the image in most retreats: we go up the mountain to pray and after the retreat, we return to ordinary life.
A final note. I believe it is not accidental that Filipinos love pictures. Any event --- birthdays, outings, deaths --- merits a camera and a flash. I believe we do not just collect photographs, but we collect memories that transfigure us. A picture of a father and a son reminds the son of being “his father’s child”. A picture of a family reminds a daughter of what she is, a child of two wonderful parents and a sister to her siblings. A picture of two friends, reminds one of what he is: a friend of another. Filipinos collect memories. It is not surprising that those who work abroad hold a picture of their families close to their heart. It is that same picture that becomes the source of strength in their loneliest nights or in their harshest jobs. They are memories that transfigures.
So what transfigures you? What are the events that inspire or build you up? What are the things that strengthen you? If we persevere in Jesus’ company despite the crosses we encounter, then we will assuredly find Jesus some day. This is an intimacy far more fulfilling than the one we sometimes experience on earth. We too will undergo a transfiguration which will last all through eternity. We pray that our Transfiguration experiences enables us to face the future with much courage and with the greatest hope.