In the chapter before this Gospel passage Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They came up with a number of answers. Then Jesus asked “But what about you? Who do you say that I am?” You’ll remember that Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Well, Peter was correct but Peter still did not realize the full meaning the declaration he had made. When Jesus predicts His death, Peter takes him aside and rebukes him. “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!’” To which Jesus replied: “Get behind me Satan…you’re not thinking like God but with human understanding.”
Now, at the transfiguration of Jesus, the veil was removed from the disciples’ eyes revealing who Jesus really is! Peter, James and John witnessed, if only for a moment, the glory of God revealed in the Son. Peter recognizes that Jesus’ dazzling appearance is significant: “Lord, it is good for us to be here!” He trips over his tongue trying to talk it out – to speak words for the unspeakable. With that the Father speaks: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; listen to HIM.” A stunned silence follows. There are times when it is best to just be quiet. Times when we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves. There is more going on than we can process. We’ve entered a mystery that can’t be defined, only experienced.
This story of the transfiguration as told in today’s Gospel, in the exact way it happened, happened only once. But the disciples surely had many more “mountaintop” experiences when Jesus revealed His fullness little by little. It was a gift to those who took the time to stay with Him. That’s how we build relationships – by getting to know and understand each other – by experiencing life with the other … it’s how we live out our vow of stability.
When you’ve had a “mountaintop experience” you don’t forget it. When Christ removes the veil from your eyes and you behold Him as He really is, you can recall every tiny moment. Maybe it happened when you were on retreat, or on Recollection Sunday, during Adoration or Stations of the Cross, or it came out of the blue. Maybe it happened in the privacy of your own room or in a crowd. Maybe it happens every day at the Consecration of the Mass or when you look across the table at a confrere. The veil is wiped from your eyes and you recognize that person for who they really are.
Wouldn’t our lives be a bit of heaven on earth if every person we encountered awakened in us the reality: “This is my beloved child in whom I am well pleased.” If only, every time we open our mouths we were conscious that it is Christ using us to extend His love to the other. If our ears heard not simply the words spoken by the other but we could sense God saying, “This is my beloved child – hear her.”
We can echo the words of Peter, James and John: “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” But, Jesus reminds us not to get too comfortable: “Rise,” he says, “Tell the vision to no one” – rather, live it and there will be no need for “telling.”
There is a sweet ad on TV for Pampers. Viewers see in one clip to the next, a variety of babies being cuddled by their mothers. In the voice over you hear what the babies are thinking. “You are smart. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are kind. You are perfect, just the way you are.” An adult voice continues, “Imagine if we saw ourselves as our babies see us.” I ask you, what if we saw ourselves – saw each other – as Jesus sees us?