This gospel passage about the Transfiguration has always seemed confusing to me, or maybe, just a bit out of place. It feels too removed from Jesus’ day-to-day life with his disciples. Right before this passage, we hear that Jesus will suffer greatly (Mt16:21) and that the conditions for discipleship are not easy. They require us to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses (Mt 16:24). Immediately after this passage, we hear of healings, more passion predictions, and questions about… taxes (Mt 17:14-27). These are all stories and challenges relating to the physical world. The Transfiguration, on the other hand, is a quintessential transcendent experience. Despite my initial feeling that this is otherworldly and thus unable to speak to our lives today, the Transfiguration nonetheless can be seen as a needed revealing of Jesus’ glorious nature, and a needed revealing of strength for our own lives.
Yes, our world is a mess and our lives are often burdensome. We may feel this especially in this Lenten season when we are trying to clean our own houses and become more free to love others. We feel burdened by recurring sin, chronic illness, or broken relationships. But the Transfiguration can show us the glory of God amidst the mess. The Transfiguration is a revealing of Jesus’ true nature, a sign that he came not only to be in the mess, but to redeem it. The significance of the moment is evident as the words of Jesus’ baptism are echoed: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 17:5b/Mt 3:17b).
If we pay attention, the glorious moments amidst the mess of our own lives can be a bit more evident. We might hear those same words echoed in our hearts and in the hearts of others. We are reminded in Whom we trust and of the beauty that is actually all around us. These are our Transfiguration moments.
When life seems too difficult, maybe our Transfiguration moments can be “the strength that comes from God” that we hear of in today’s 2nd reading (2Tim 1:8b). They are reminders to trust in God’s beloved Son and to remember how God is at work all around us, even when we cannot see it. These moments can be footholds to steady ourselves when it seems too hard to carry our crosses. They are the events, people, and ideas that let us choose hope one more time, that give us strength to see the this-worldly burdens and challenges through from the pain of Good Friday to the joy of Easter Sunday.