The Gospel of Mark tells us of the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2 – 8). Jesus takes his closest friends, Peter, James, and John, up onto a high mountain. “There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became brilliantly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them.” Elijah and Moses joined them. Peter was at a loss of what to say and so he makes a very pragmatic offer – “let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Then, the voice of God comes from the heavens, echoing the message that was revealed at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Beloved Son” and adding a new injunction, “Listen to Him.” Then, everything goes back to normal. Jesus tells his Apostles not to tell anyone, and He immediately gets back to the work of caring for the people.
The Transfiguration is an amazing event. The chosen Apostles were given a glimpse of Jesus as the Christ, in all his glory. It is significant that this event takes place immediately after Jesus has explained the cost of discipleship – “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) The cross is the way to glory. Christianity offers us a reason for our suffering. Those who preach a Gospel of prosperity are not preaching the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus did not promise that our way in life would be easy if only we believe. He did not promise us money and worldly success. Indeed, He promised the opposite – that believing in Him and following in His path would cost us our very lives – “Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” What He did promise was to be with us in the midst of the suffering and to reward us in the end. We, too, have the opportunity for glory. We, too, have the opportunity to be transfigured. Jesus has offered us eternal life. We only need to pick up our cross and follow Him to be granted that gift.
The Transfiguration also invites us to recognize the moments of grace and beauty that permeate our lives. The Transfiguration was but a brief moment of time in the midst of a busy day. Work was done both before and after. In that moment, however, the Apostles were given a tremendous gift. We, too, are given gifts of moments of grace, glimpses of the beauty that awaits us in the next world. They may come to us while contemplating creation, or holding a child, or praying before the Blessed Sacrament. While they might not be on the scale of the Transfiguration, they do invite us into the mystery that is greater than what we know here on Earth. These moments are usually all too short, but they can be life-changing. They can assure us of the love of God and offer great consolation. They can sustain us when life gets hard and the cross is heavy.
In the Transfiguration and in those gifts of grace that we experience, Jesus is inviting us to experience and be part of His glory. Will we accept the gift?