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 witnessed his healings, casting out demons, and forgiveness of sins, which, all of which were leading those of his followers to believe in the reality that Jesus was the Son of God. I imagine Peter, James, and John, though acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah, still pretty much looked at Jesus as 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 while still remaining fully God. 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 so that we can become one with him. Through our participation in the life of Jesus Christ we are deified, becoming like God as we deepen 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 1997, 52). This reality of the invitation of communion with the Loving God and Father of all creation is for all. Our joy and fulfillment is 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. We become in touch with the fact that nothing of material reality will ever really satisfy 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. We are invited to embrace the fullness of our humanity; the reality that we are physical, emotional, intellectual, while at the same time, spiritual beings. Our fulfillment and joy comes from a balance of nurturing each aspect of who we are in participation with Jesus.
Peter, James and John, as well as Augustine and the saints, embraced the invitation of Jesus and that has made all the difference. God invites us also to experience the wonder, to explore the full breadth, depth, and width of all that our reason and faith can open for us, and go even further, to embrace the yearning of our soul, that we may draw ever deeper into the intimacy of a loving relationship with God, ourselves, and each other. May we say yes to that same invitation today, tomorrow, and each day going forward, to continue to go deeper, to experience the fullness of our humanity and through participation in Christ, our divinity!
Photo: Early Fifteenth Century Russian Orthodox icon of the Transfiguration