A Musing on the Transfiguration & Obedience
Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus…
Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen. –Luke 9:28-36
A few summers ago, I spent every Thursday teaching grade-school children about the Fourth Luminous Mystery: The Transfiguration. As we begin the second week of Lent, the Transfiguration account from Luke takes center stage in today’s Sunday Gospel. (Or, as I once heard it described, the “Shut Up, Peter” Gospel.)
The story of the Transfiguration was a difficult one to explain to children: Jesus went up the mountain with His disciples, then He changed appearance. Why? To reveal to them that He was the Son of God, and to prepare Himself for His Passion, Death, and Resurrection in Jerusalem.
While there are many thoughts out there about the experience of the Transfiguration, whenever I hear this Gospel, I harken back to what I taught my students that summer:
The Transfiguration of Jesus teaches us about obedience.
First, the apostles Peter, James, and John followed Jesus up the mountain. They probably had no idea why they were going up there with Him. Maybe He told them He wanted to pray. Maybe He didn’t tell them anything except “Follow Me” or “Come with Me.” But, they followed Him nonetheless, because they had faith in Him, and they were willing to follow Him obediently.
Then, when they arrive at the mountain and see Jesus transfigured, they hear the Voice of God the Father telling them: This is my chosen Son; listen to Him.
Yes, later, Peter had his struggles – denying Jesus and abandoning Him to the Cross, even though he had promised his Master he would die with Him. James also abandoned Him in the Garden, but his brother John the Beloved was with Mary at the foot of the Cross.
Despite their struggles of obedience during Jesus’ Passion, they were reunited with Him after His Resurrection and, after Pentecost, began preaching His Gospel to the world.
They listened and obeyed Jesus. Did they listen perfectly? No. Did they always obey Him? No. But, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they listened to Him and obeyed His Great Commission: Go and make disciples of all nations…
The second example of obedience we find in the Gospel today is Jesus’ obedience. He went up the mountain, more than likely, to transfigure before them as a final preparation for His Passion in Jerusalem. The Gospel tells us that He converses with Moses and Elijah about this while He is transfigured.
Before His three most trusted Apostles, He reveals Himself in all His Glory as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He also, it seems, reveals His Mission in Jerusalem, as the Apostles overhear Him talking to Moses and Elijah.
He has and is listening to the Will of the Father, and He commissions us to do the same. As the Son listens to the Father, so we must listen to the Son.
I gave a meditation on this Gospel reading last Tuesday to a group of high school students. I did not know beforehand I was supposed to lead this meditation, so I fell back on what I remembered from teaching it previously: obedience.
I asked them (and myself): “Where do you hear the Voice of God? How can you listen to Him better? What will God ask of you today … tomorrow… next week? How can you be more obedient to Him, as Jesus was, as the Apostles were?“
Let us pray for an increase of obedience and discernment for ourselves and our brothers and sisters, especially those in authority. This Sunday, let us ask ourselves: “How can I be more obedient to the Voice of God in my life?”