The Feast of the Transfiguration

“Peter volunteers to house Jesus and his heavenly guess; but what he is really trying to do is catch the ecstasy, house the glory and beauty of God that are pouring down over them, capture the experience of transcendental joy and communication so as to make it a permanent possession of man.  Who could blame him? Peter indeed senses that heaven and earth have come together… [which] unaccountably satisfies the deepest longings of our nature.”

Peter gives us great hope.  Just before our Gospel scene today Peter has an interesting exchange with our Lord.  We know it well.  Jesus asks the Apostles, Who do people say that I am? (Mt 16:13). And Peter confesses You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Mt 16:16).  And Jesus blesses Peter for understanding this.  But then, Jesus begins to tell his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly… and be killed and on the third day be raised (Mt 16: 21).  Peter, confused, looks at Jesus, no way man, No such thing shall ever happen to you! (Mt 16:22). Now frustrated Jesus says to Peter, Get behind me, Satan! (Mt 16:23).

Immediately after this scene, we have our Gospel today.  Jesus brings Peter, James, and John up the mountain and he is transfigured before them.  And Peter speaks again.  By this time, we are hoping that Peter says the right thing. He looks at Jesus and says: Lord it is good that we are here… If you wish, I will make three tents (Mt 17:4).

I think Peter responds like all of us would, which Jesus even says: [Peter], you are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do (Mt 16: 23). Peter sees the glorified Jesus.  It’s a glimpse at what the resurrected Jesus will look like.  Where the divinity of Jesus shines through his humanity, and he shines like the sun. This moment, the transfiguration on the Mount, is so beautiful, that Peter wants it to last. It’s a moment where he senses that heaven and earth have come together and Peter wants to cling to it. But the problem is that Peter is thinking as a human being does. Peter does not want to go to Jerusalem.  He certainly doesn’t want to see Jesus die.  He wants to hold on to this moment of the transfiguration. In short, Peter wants the fruit of the Resurrection, with out the crucifixion…

Jesus’ transfiguration, is an experience that is supposed to give Peter, James and John hope to go on the mission with Jesus.  This is the turning point in Matthew’s Gospel.  Jesus’ identity has been established:  He is the Messiah, the son of the living God (Mt 16:16).  But now he is to go to Jerusalem so that he can finish his work.  So that he can accomplish his Mission.  And he wants his disciples to trust him and to go with him.

It can be easy for us to fall into the mindset of Peter… We want certain graces from God now without the journey that goes with it.

If we are struggling with sin in our lives, then we might be impatient with ourselves and beg God to take it away now.  But the journey towards freedom can teach us about our need for God. Or, maybe someone close to us is struggling in their faith.  A good friend of mine called me this week to ask prayers for her son.  Her son is struggling in his faith and isn’t sure of God’s love in his life.  It broke this mother’s heart.  The temptation for her is to be like Peter. But the son needs his journey so that he can have an experience of God in his life.  And so, for those of us accompanying others in situations like this, the journey itself can strengthen our bond, intimacy, and trust in God.

Fr.  Tony, myself, can also be like Peter. Fr. Tony and I, and I’m sure many of you also, have dreams for this parish. We have dreams about it being the Catholic hub, a parish completely on fire.  A parish where people come here because they know that they will encounter the Lord here.  And even for our desire to have a rockin parish, we have to remember that we are blessed, and have been blessed in many ways.  That our journey as people of God will bring more people to Christ.

But here’s the point my friends. The inevitable journey should not paralyze us in fear.  It should not prevent us from moving, growing, and being open to be transfigured.  Instead, the journey should inspire us!

My friends, the transfiguration today gives us hope for the end of the journey.  It gives us a glimpse at what resurrected life will be like.  But there is a journey we need to take.  Just as Jesus needed to go to Jerusalem, each of us has a special journey.  May the Eucharist we receive today strengthen us for this journey so that we too can be transfigured.

In Christ’s Friendship,

Fr. Stephen

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