Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them (Mk 9:2-3).
Peter, James and John experienced Jesus’ teachings with authority, his powerful signs and wonderous works, they also witnessed his healings, casting out of demons, and forgiveness of sins, all of which, helped them to experience the divine working through the flesh. Peter had just acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, yet he and Jesus’ inner circle were still working out what that meant. In the encounter of Jesus transfigured, Jesus revealed, 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. Jesus 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, Jesus, in the words of St. Irenaeus, 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 the 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 1997, 52). This reality of the invitation of communion with the Loving God and Father of all creation is for all, everyone, not just a select few. Our joy and fulfillment is achieved through saying yes to the invitation from the Holy Spirit and developing a relationship with the loving God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Many may say they are happy and living a good life without having a relationship with Jesus 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 sense a deeper yearning for more.
Even with great achievement, mastery, honor, and accumulation, there is still a lingering question, “Is this all that there is?” We experience, mostly 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 well in the opening chapter of his autobiography, Confessions: “Thou dost so excite him that to praise Thee is his joy. For Thou has made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
The Transfiguration of Jesus is an invitation, not to reject our humanity, but to embrace the fullness of what it means to be human, to be one with God as the Son of God is. Through his willingness to be sent, to be one with us, while remaining fully divine, 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, said yes to this invitation from Jesus. They nurtured this relationship and that has made all the difference. The Holy Spirit, the love shared between the Father and the Son, invites us to experience the same 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 deepest yearning of our soul, which is to draw ever deeper into the intimacy of a loving relationship with God, ourselves, and each other.
Painting: Transfiguration of Jesus, Carl Bloch – 1872
Quote from Confessions by St. Augustine, Word on Fire Classics translated by F. J. Sheed