06 August 2009

Feast of the Transfiguration

Throughout the past few weeks the daily readings, especially in the Gospel of Matthew have echoed the refrain: "And there is something greater here than (Solomon, the Temple, Moses, Elijah, etc). . ." whenever Jesus speaks of himself. In today's Gospel we have an illustration of this refrain when Jesus is transfigured in front of some of his disciples (Peter, James, and John). Following this Elijah and Moses appear and converse with Jesus. Peter, terrified and "hardly knowing what to say" exclaims, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here!" and then suggests that they make three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Following this suggestion the mountain is covered by cloud, and there is a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him." Moses and Elijah have disappeared and we are told that the disciples "no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them." They are warned to say nothing of these events until after the resurrection from the dead, and though they do not really understand what resurrection means --- or even who Jesus really is in all its implications, they do indeed understand that right here with them in One who, though continuous with the rest of their history, is greater than Solomon, the Temple, Elijah, Moses, etc.

The ability to see what is really present despite outward appearance is a challenge to all of us. To see Christ in the neighbor, sometimes to see Christ in ourselves, to see the presence of God in a world it is much easier to castigate as evil or profane, to find that ours is a creation where heaven and earth interpenetrate one another in a significant way especially in light of Christ --- all of these are parts of the challenge today's Gospel puts before us. Further, to see that our God comes to us in weakness and ordinariness is part of that same challenge. And yet, we are a people called to recognize and embody this presence wherever we go. These are the two sides of the command to obedience: recognize (hear, see, taste, etc) and embody this for others. Rooted deeply within us by virtue of our baptism, there is something greater here than Solomon, Moses, or the Temple or the Decalogue --- a Wisdom and Love which transcends them all and marks us as disciples. If we can take seriously the vocation to live this out in a way which allows our more prosaic existence and being to be transfigured in the power and presence of God, we will begin to understand the challenge and imagery of today's Gospel: "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him!"

My best wishes especially to my Camaldolese Sisters at Transfiguration Monastery in Windsor, NY. on this Feast Day. As Benedictines they take seriously the call to obedience as the challenge to recognize and embody God in the ordinariness of every day which epitomizes Christian Life.