The transfiguration narrative is all about the theophany. God manifests himself in Christ Jesus. The images in this episode include the mountain setting, the feeling of joy, the voice from the cloud, and the appearance of Moses and Elijah. Significantly, Jesus’ face becomes dazzlingly white. Everything takes a glorious in this whole encounter. And then Peter exclaims, “Master, it is good to be here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Scripture informs us that “Peter did not know what he was saying.” This makes the entire encounter even more captivating. Peter has the UIHS (Under the Influence of the Holy Spirit) syndrome and cannot hold back his feelings. Peter feels good staying with Christ.
Maybe, it is a captivating movie or shows that you have watched sometime in the past. Maybe it is a cruise experience. Maybe it is a vacation. Perhaps it is a type of food that you loved eating, and which produced lasting experience in you. Perhaps you once visited a pilgrimage center. Usually, the feeling is to want to stay with such experiences and not have an end to them. And we can say, like Peter, “It is good that we are here.” Someone once shared their experience after a trip to Disney, “It felt so good that I didn’t want to leave the place.” How about making the worship experience so beautiful for people to want to be with God forever? Can we make our churches so welcoming, so inspiring, and so loving that we all can say to each other, “It is good that we are here?”
Peter cannot simply hold his emotions, so he exclaims, “Master it is good that we are here.” This sums up the beauty and joy of knowing Christ.
Peter’s exclamation is deeper than any sensual feelings. It is produced by the lasting reality of experiencing the divine. Jesus’ face shines whiter than anything they have known. When we experience God, the effect is real. Here’s Moses after the encounter on Mount Sinai, “As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the LORD. When Aaron, then, and the other children of Israel saw Moses and noticed how radiant the skin of his face had become, they were afraid to come near him” (Ex. 34:29). David writes, “A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else” (Ps. 84:10).
A young lady goes shopping in a grocery store and walks through the shelves picking up items on her shopping list. She mistakenly pushes down a stack of glasses (cups) which splashes all over the floor. The lady is scared at the cost of the damage done. As she bends down to pick up the glasses in tears, a store attendant taps on her back and says, “Don’t worry. We got you covered.” She’s surprised at those words but that’s true, “We got you covered.”
What we experience in Christ is the real, astounding beauty of divinity. Pope Paul VI makes speaks to his audience, "Christ is beauty, human and divine beauty, the beauty of reality, of truth, of life. The figure of Christ presents, over and above the charm of his merciful gentleness, an aspect which is grave and strong, formidable, if you like, when dealing with cowardice, hypocrisy, injustice, and cruelty, but never lacking a sovereign aura of love" (General Audience, 13 January 1971; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 21 January 1971, p. 12).
Peter describes the experience in clear terms in the second reading of today, what he tags “unique declaration” from the majestic glory (1 Pet. 1: 17). God’s voice gives us Christ to connect with and to transform our lives, “My Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” This beauty is transmitted to us through being with the Lord. In Christ Jesus, the beauty of worship and its transforming joy helps us overcome our fears, anxieties, pains, sorrows, loss, and disappointment.
We experience God’s beauty in the sacraments. Those moments when the priest gives an absolution after confessing our sins. Like Peter and the disciples, God has got us covered and we can say, “It is good to be here.” When someone welcomes us with a smile and a huge embrace at the entrance of the Church, the joy and love that Peter and the transfiguration disciples experienced bloom in our hearts and we can say, “It is good that we are here.”
Personally, the experience of transfiguration is special to me because it was exactly on this day that I celebrated my first Mass seventeen years ago. The privilege of lifting the Sacred species of the Body and Blood of Christ felt transformative and ecstatic. Standing on the altar and looking at the people in the pews was for me, beholding the face of God. That moment cannot be compared with any other. Each time I lift the chalice at Mass and speak the words of consecration invoking Christ’s presence, it feels good to be with the Lord. The apostles celebrated fellowship on the mountain with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. We celebrate fellowship at Mass. The apostles experienced Jesus’ presence on the mountain. We experience the Real Presence of Christ at Mass in the Holy Eucharist. The apostles heard the voice of the Father in the cloud. We hear God’s voice speak to us through the scriptures.
Let’s make the Church that welcoming place that constantly brings people to God. Joy, love, and peace can be found nowhere else but in the church. Let us today examine how we can make the church a home where God’s people feel a connection with God and with each other. The church cannot be another Disney World. The church cannot give a feeling of satisfaction like Disney. Rather, the Church gives us a foretaste of heaven where we unite with the angels and the saints to declare the glory of God. Being church produces something more fundamental and lasting because in the church we celebrate eternal life in Christ. It truly feels great to be with Jesus.
Readings: 1st- Dan. 7:9-10, 13-14; 2nd- 2 Pet. 1:16-19; Gospel- Mt. 17:1-9