He Was Transfigured Before Them

Today’s Gospel is Matthew’s account of Jesus’ transfiguration.  Peter, James and John accompany Jesus to a high mountain where “he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” The disciples are granted an incredible vision of Jesus in all of his divine glory, getting a glimpse of the resurrected Jesus And they hear the voice of God, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

You would think that experience would clearly mark the dividing line between “before” and “after.”  That nothing could possibly be the same for the disciples after an experience like that.  Yet, afterwards, James and John still worry about whether they are going to get to sit at Jesus’ right hand, Peter still denies him and they still all run away when Jesus is crucified.  At some level, they still don’t quite get it.

How much like our own experience!  I’ll go on retreat, have the most incredible experiences of God, marvel at what God has revealed of Godself, feel like nothing could possibly ever be the same. And then, I come home from retreat and I’ll think or do something that seems to me utterly inconsistent with the revelations I’ve experienced.  And I wonder, have I made any progress at all on this spiritual journey?

The best I can say sometimes is that, if I look at my prayer journal and my life now and compare it to my prayer journal and life a year or two years or three years ago, I “get it” more now than I did then.  The image that sometimes comes to me is a spiral – even if I’m sometimes covering the same ground, I’m a little deeper in the spiral than I was before. 

That’s not always satisfying – there is something nice about the idea of a single flash of light changing everything all at once.  But it doesn’t seem to work that way. Our occasional glimpses of Transfiguration do mark us, and they do impel us forward. But we still need work.