Peter, James and John respond to Jesus’ invitation to take off to that place of prayer (the high mountain) so that they could be alone. But something remarkable happened on this mountain – they saw Jesus in a way they had never seen him before, in a way that was mysterious and covered in cloud and shadow. What they saw frightened them and left them not knowing what to say. This experience at this time was something that they didn’t understand but they knew it was something beyond human experience.
They saw the person of Jesus intimately connected with the Law and the prophetic tradition through the presence of Elijah and Moses. But then it was only Jesus who was present-Jesus was the fulfillment of all that had gone on before them. But they still didn’t understand what they had experienced.
St. Ignatius of Loyola believed totally in daily self reflection in the company of the Trinity. Daily reflection on the life lived and experienced was a non-negotiable for Ignatius and his followers. He saw it as critically important in the faith journey
When we look at our Gospel today we can understand why daily reflection is so important. These three disciples (and the rest of them) didn’t get who Jesus was until well after his death. They didn’t understand what had happened at the transfiguration. They didn’t understand what was happening as they witnessed Jesus’ life. They didn’t understand what was happening at the crucifixion. But they kept pondering their experiences over and over – if they didn’t we wouldn’t have the New Testament.
So what do we learn from this?
Every human life is filled with experiences from when we get up in the morning until we close our eyes in sleep and even in our sleep we experience our dreams. What do we do with these experiences?
Mostly we ignore them and them we forget them. Even the profound moments in our lives, we can shout the depth of their meaning out. I might have experienced walking with a loved one who has been sick and has died. Do I sit back and reflect upon the experience or is it too difficult to re-enter this painful time, so we try to shut it out hoping it will go away.
I might have experienced a deep hurt. Do I ponder the experience considering my own reactions and responses to the hurt or do I totally throw the blame on those who hurt me without any self reflection? So I become the victim in life and I go from one lot of blaming to the next without examination of my own heart.
I might have deeply hurt someone myself. Do I take the time to reflect on my own behaviour so as to be confronted with what I have done? Or do I just keep running away from this self-disclosure because it is too painful?
There are numerous life experiences that we all have. Many of these experiences are profoundly mysterious. Sadly many of them become buried and we lose the richness these experiences have to offer.
Jesus invites each of us to this holy mountain today. It might be shrouded in mystery – we may not have too much of an idea who Jesus is yet – we may be confused by the experiences of life and feel lost – but Jesus says to us today to come with him; to trust him; to have faith in him and to keep thinking about our experiences with Jesus at our sides.
When we have the courage to come to the mountain with Jesus then we too may see something beyond our imagining. When we truly see Jesus transfigured (see Jesus as he truly is) then the life that Jesus offers us will begin.
A large part of the problem is that we really don’t see who Jesus is. Jesus can become our own creation – a feel safe, feel good guy that we call upon when it suits us, and we try and mould Jesus to be what we want him to be. If we truly believed in Jesus we too would not know what to say, we would be frightened, but we would hear God saying to us: Listen to him. Even in all our blindness and ignorance all we would truly want would be to Listen to Jesus. We would hunger for him – not the Jesus of our own making but the Jesus who stands before us as mystery. Can we accept such a mystery?
We, the Body of Christ must also be transformed just as Jesus was transformed – but this cannot happen until we come to this mountain in all humility. Then the horrors our world is currently experiencing may begin to fade and the light will truly shine in the darkness.
In the coming week and, indeed, all through Lent, let us pray for the desire and will to come to the mountain that Jesus invites us to so that we may encounter the true mystery before us and ponder for a lifetime its meaning for ourselves and the whole of creation.