The story of the Transfiguration is often noted as the “mountaintop” experience: Jesus needs rest, retreats to a lofty place and finds divine affirmation and encouragement. Emboldened, Jesus then goes down the mountain returning to those he serves. Surely, there is much to reflect on in this passage.
But Jesus isn’t alone on the mountain and I find myself paying close attention to those who accompanied him there. Peter, John, and James are in the presence of the Divine. How they respond challenges me to examine how I respond when encountering the face of God that exists before me.
In Luke’s account of the Transfiguration, the disciples immediately fall asleep. Whether the disciples were snoozing or in an oblivious fog, Luke wants us to know that they failed to grasp the importance of what was happening—they just didn’t get it. I too can miss meaningful stuff. Important points cease to enter my consciousness and I miss it.
Then Luke says the disciples become “fully awake.” They see Jesus’ “dazzling” glory and notice that Moses and Elijah are there. But are Jesus’ companions watching closely enough to understand the magnitude of the scene? For me, what does my “fully awake” look like? Am I ready to receive God’s gifts and to see God’s creation revealed before me?
Next, Peter affirms “it is good we are here.” It’s a clumsy and inappropriate big idea to “make three tents.” Peter’s over-eager response reminds me of how often I want to please and rush to action before listening well and responding in a fitting way.
The cloud thickens on the mountain top and visibility becomes obscure. Jesus’ companions become frightened and silent. How do I respond to God in the messiness, murkiness of the world and of our Church these days? Scared and unsure, am I silent in order to better listen? Or am I silent because speaking up means sacrificing comfort or maybe my privilege?
The Transfiguration reminds me that our responses matter, and that we are accountable for them. It also reminds me that despite my flawed reactions and missteps, Jesus’ invitation remains: Jesus wants us to be with him on this journey.
Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy is the executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, the national Catholic organization seeking to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice. Vaillancourt Murphy is the co-author of Advocating for Justice: An Evangelical Vision for Transforming Systems and Structures published by Baker Books June 2016.
Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy la directora ejecutiva de “Catholic Mobilizing Network”, una organización católica que busca terminar con la pena de muerte y promover justicia restaurativa.