By Fr. Matt Keller, C.PP.S.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration. Today we remember what happened up on the mountain when Jesus revealed his glory to the disciples, but what I think is so easy to forget about the Transfiguration is the context.
Just prior to taking the disciples up on the mountain, Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Peter answers this question with a marvelous profession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
Jesus goes on to say that he is going to be killed by the religious leaders and be raised on the last day. Peter rebukes him, saying, “God forbid, Lord” (Matthew 16:22), this is not going to happen. Then Jesus rebukes Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me” (Matthew 16:23). It is after this that Jesus leads Peter, James and John up the mountain.
Where Jesus face shone like the sun and his clothes become white, where Moses and Elijah appeared to them conversing with Jesus, and where the casting cloud and the voice that came from the cloud that said “‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’” (Matthew 17:5). An event that where Jesus reveals his glory to his disciples. A revelation of glory that made Peter, James, and John feel fearful. A revelation of glory that may not even seem to be real in the moment. When they were coming to down from the mountain “Jesus charged them, ‘Do not tell the vision to anyone”’ (Matthew 17:9). If someone claims to have had a vision, it would seem to imply the possibility of not being real, it could be fake.
Sometimes I think like Peter, James, and John, we need to have those dramatic, almost unreal, almost fake experiences of our God so that God can get our attention, so that we can hear his voice. In the Transfiguration, the disciples had an experience of God that allowed them to hear the voice of God: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).
We also have these experiences. In my own life, when I was beginning to sense that God was calling me to the priesthood, I went on a Charismatic Life in the Spirit Retreat. During the retreat, the leaders offered to pray over the participants. I took my turn, allowing myself to be prayed over. It was a powerful and dramatic experience of God, so much so that it almost seemed to not be real. I heard the voice of God say to me, “You are going to minister to thousands of people.”
This message was not totally clear to me at the time, but I needed to pay attention to it. It was a voice that I probably would not have heard if I had not had this dramatic experience.
As we celebrate the Transfiguration today going up on the mountain with Jesus, may we have an experience of God that allows us to hear his voice speaking to us.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. Matt Keller, C.PP.S., is the pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Glandorf, Ohio.