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, and wonders. They also experienced his healing on the Sabbath, 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 looked at Jesus as being solely 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, assuming humanity, God opened up heaven for us. The Son of God became one with us so that we can become one with him. Through participation in the life of Jesus Christ, we can restore our relationship with his Father.
“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, 2nd ed., 52). As I have been sharing in prior posts, this reality of the invitation of communion with the Loving God and Father of all creation is for everyone. Our joy and fulfillment are achieved by 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, 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 materiality before us. That if we slow down enough, we experience a yearning for more. Even with great achievement, mastery, 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 with material and finite things, feeling satisfied for the moment, but eventually, in short order, we are left feeling empty, time and time again. This unease is our soul’s yearning, our transcendent nature to long for more, and that longing is for the infinite that the finite cannot provide.
St Augustine of Hippo (354-430) articulates 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. We are invited to embrace the full range of our personhood; the reality that we are physical, emotional, intellectual, as well as spiritual human beings. Our fulfillment and joy come from the balancing and nurturing of each of these aspects of who we are. We are all called beyond mere existence, subsistence, and survival living to experience the fullness and meaning of life.
Peter, James, and John, as well as Augustine and the saints, embraced the invitation of Jesus and that has made all the difference in their lives. God invites us to do the same. He encourages us to be open to wonder, to explore the full breadth, depth, and width of all that our faith and reason can open for us such that we can draw ever deeper into the intimacy of a loving relationship with God, ourselves, and each other. We are called to experience the fullness of our interconnected humanity and through our participation in Christ, share collectively in his divinity!
Icon: Transfiguration of Jesus painted by Theophanes the Greek in 1408