Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. (Mt 17:1-2).
Peter, James, and John certainly experienced Jesus’ profound teachings, his powerful signs, his wonders, and they also witnessed his healings, casting out demons, and forgiving of sins, which, alluded to the reality that he was the Son of God. I imagine Peter, James, and John, though acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah, still pretty much looking at Jesus as a human being. In the encounter of Jesus transfigured, Jesus revealed to his inner circle of Apostles not only a foretaste of what was to come in heaven but a glimpse of his actual divinity.
Jesus is not 50% God and 50% human. He is fully God and fully man. This is the Mystery of the Incarnation; the reality that the second Person of the Trinity took on flesh and became human. This is an important reality, because in this very act of Infinite Grace, the Son of God assuming humanity, Jesus, the Godman, opened up heaven for us in the humanity he assumed. The Son of God became one with us in our fallen and sinful state so that we can become one with him. Through participation in the life of Jesus Christ, we can restore and/or deepen our relationship with his Father, and we too can be transformed.
“By revealing himself God wishes to make [us] capable of responding to him, and of knowing him, and of loving him far beyond [our] own natural capacity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1997, 52). This reality of the invitation of communion with the Loving God and Father of all creation is for all. Authentic joy and fulfillment are achieved through developing a relationship with the God of Jesus Christ.
Many may say they are happy and living a good life without having a relationship with Jesus Christ or apart from God or his Church, and I would not disagree with them. I would only add that if we are honest with ourselves, there is more to life than the mere material and finite reality we see and experience with our senses. When we slow down enough, when we are actually still enough, we can experience a deeper yearning for more, and begin to see what is keeping us from the deeper reality offered to us.
Even with great achievement, mastery, honor, and accumulation, there is still a lingering question, “Is this all there is?” We experience consciously or unconsciously a restlessness, we continually search to fill this unease, feeling satisfied for the moment, but eventually in short order, we are left empty, time and time again. This unease is our soul’s yearning, our transcendent nature longing for more, and that longing is for the infinite that the finite cannot provide. St Augustine of Hippo (354-430) articulated this desire and yearning so well in the opening chapter of his autobiography, Confessions: “You move us to delight in praising You; for You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in You.”
The Feast of the Transfiguration is an invitation, not to reject our humanity, but to embrace the fullness of what it means to be human, as the Son of God did through the Mystery of his becoming one with us, all of us, all of humanity, not just a select few. We are invited to embrace the fullness and rich diversity of our humanity; the reality that we are physical, emotional, intellectual, while at the same time, spiritual beings. Our fulfillment and joy come from a balance of nurturing the reality that each and every one of us has been created in the image and likeness of God.
Peter, James, and John, and each of the saints embraced the invitation of Jesus and that has made all the difference. God also invites each one of us to experience the wonder and to explore the full breadth, depth, and width of all that our reason and faith can open for us, so to embrace the deepest yearning of our souls, such that our intimacy and loving relationship with God, ourselves, and each other expands.
Today, tomorrow, and each day going forward may we, through our participation in the life of Jesus the Christ who is fully human and fully divine, be willing to open our hearts and minds and souls to be transformed so to experience the fullness of our humanity and our divinity and begin to better embrace our common dignity. We need to refuse to belittle, demean and dehumanize, and instead see each other through God’s eyes, as his children. Once we recognize that we are all interconnected and embrace the richness of our diversity, we will then begin to heal, and the tide of violence will begin to recede.
Photo: Just a small portion of the many students through the years that I have been blessed with as we have learned together to embrace our dignity.