Whenever we go a particular place, we do so for a reason. We do not travel to a specific location without some purpose or goal in mind.
Today’s liturgy invites us to celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. This feast calls to our attention the importance of this event in Jesus’ life, further affirmed by its report in each of the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Cycle A, the reading for this feast is taken from the Gospel of Matthew. The Transfiguration occurs after Peter confesses his belief that Jesus is the Messiah and after Jesus predicts his Passion. In each of these Gospels, a discussion of the cost of discipleship precedes the Transfiguration.
Jesus took his disciples up on the mountain hoping to find God there. They were on a quest, actively seeking God’s presence. Like Peter and John and James, God is calling all of us to climb the mountain with Jesus. Jesus leads his disciples up there because he knows that’s where God lives. The same is true for Moses in the reading from Exodus — God is found on the mountaintop, where your vision is clear and all the noise of everyday life subsides.
But even though it is easier to find God on the mountaintop, that is not the only place God can be found. All of us came to church this morning, hoping to find something of God here. And God feels especially close in the beauty of the natural world: stars shining in the sky, waves falling on the ocean shore. Poets and visionaries can attest that these are places you can find God. When you’re lost or lonely or wondering what’s next, find a church to pray in, or a mountain to climb, or a forest to walk in — remember those places you have felt God’s presence before and go seek God there again.
Of course, there’s always a temptation to stay put on top of the mountain — to use that sacred space as a place to hide from the problems of the world. Peter — bumbling Peter, as usual —gives into this temptation when he asks Jesus if they can build dwellings on top of the mountain and just bask in God’s glorious presence forever, content, but removed from all the trouble brewing down on the ground below. The answer is no. God needs us to go down from the mountain and out into the world, and take some of God’s transformative love with us to share.
Truthfully, it isn’t only in those beautiful and set-apart places that we can find God. The whole world is filled with the glory of God, if we only have eyes to see.
There is no place on earth that God’s love does not go. If we open our hearts to God’s Spirit and go looking for God, we will begin to see God’s presence all around us. Our transfiguration comes as our eyes are opened and our hearts changed. And the people who seemed so different from us before — the poor and the marginalized — we will see them as they really are: made in God’s image, just as we are; we will see how Jesus’ life was spent for them, just as it was for us.
Open your eyes and see the world as it is— beloved by God. Let your heart be transfigured by God’s love. Take that love down from this mountain and use it to bring more love into the world.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus took time to be sure he was doing what the Father desired. That is why he went up the mountain with Peter, James, and John.
The last word God speaks from heaven today is a command — “Listen to Him” (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19). The word of the Lord should be like a lamp shining in the darkness of our days, as Peter tells us in today’s First Reading.
What Jesus did, we also need to do. We need to discern if our lives are in line with God’s will.
How well are we listening? Do we attend to His word each day? Listening to Jesus’ words, I need to re-evaluate my priorities and direction. As we listen closely we also hear Jesus tell us that what has been done for us, we must do for others.
Let us today rededicate ourselves to listening. To hear Him as the word of life, and, whatever be the result, there is one thing of which we can be assured. God always calls us to join in the journey.