by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
February 24, 2013
Christians of all times have been attracted by the scene traditionally called "The Transfiguration of the Lord". However, it isn't easy for those of us who belong to modern culture to penetrate the meaning of a story written with images and literary devices, typical of a "theophany" or revelation of God. However, Luke the evangelist has introduced details that allow us to discover more realistically the message of an episode that many find strange and implausible today. From the beginning, he tells us that Jesus goes with his closest disciples to the top of a mountain simply "to pray", not to contemplate a transfiguration.
Everything happens during Jesus's prayer -- "as he was praying, the appearance of his face changed." Jesus, deeply gathered, welcomes the presence of his Father, and his face changes. The disciples perceive something of his deepest and most concealed identity. Something they can't grasp in ordinary, everyday life.
In the life of the followers of Jesus, moments of clarity and certainty, joy and light aren't lacking. We don't know what happened on the top of that mountain, but we do know that through prayer and silence, it's possible to see, from faith, something of the hidden identity of Jesus. This prayer is a source of knowledge that can't be obtained from books.
Luke says that the disciples were barely aware of anything since they "had been overcome by sleep" and only upon "becoming fully awake" did they grasp anything. Peter only knows that it's very good here and that this experience should never end. Luke says he "did not know what he was saying."
So, the scene ends with a voice and a solemn command. The disciples are caught up in a cloud. They get scared because all this is over their heads. However, a voice comes out of that cloud: "This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him." Listening has to be the first attitude of the disciples.
We Christians today urgently need to "internalize" our religion if we want to rekindle our faith. It's not enough to hear the Gospel in a distracted, routine, and burned out way, without any desire to listen. Nor is it enough to listen intelligently, concerned only with understanding it.
We need to listen to the living Jesus in the depths of our being. All of us, preachers and faithful, theologians and readers, need to listen to his Good News of God, not from without but from within. Letting his words go from our heads down to our hearts. Our faith would be stronger, more joyful, and more contagious.