Genesis 22: 1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18; Romans 8: 31-34; Mark 9: 2-10
Dear friends! Robert Louis Stevenson gives us this little story: A ship was in a serious storm and in grove distress. The passengers were alarmed. One of them finally, against orders, went up to the deck and made his way to the pilot. The seaman was at his post of duty at the wheel, but, seeing the man was greatly frightened, the pilot gave him a reassuring smile. Returning to the other passengers the man reported. “I have seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled. All is well.”
“I have seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled. All is well” can be the phrase on which the story of the transfiguration is based. Jesus took with him, Peter, James and John to the top of a mountain and there Jesus was changed, transformed into a white glow that could never be duplicated on earth. Along with this glow came two people out of the past, Elijah and Moses and the disciples did not know what to make of this.
But impulsive Peter said let us build three booths. Let us stay here and relish in this moment. And then a voice said to them, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” When they seemed not to be able to comprehend any more, everything was gone and Jesus told them to follow him down the mountain and not to tell anyone of this experience.
Peter, James and John could have thought to themselves, “I have seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled. All is well.” They saw the glory of God through Jesus, Moses and Elijah and heard the voice of God and they could have thought, yes all is well as we ride out the storms of lives.
But did they? Their first impulse was to stay put on that mountain top with all the glory around them. Their first impulse was stay where they were. The mountain top experience for the disciples was glorious. They wanted to stay, to stay and worship what they saw and heard.
And many times we as Christians want that mountain top experience in our faith life. We want that glorious feeling of being with Christ. After the experience on the mountain, what did Jesus do? He went down the mountain and set his face for Jerusalem and the cross. Jesus knew that it is good to have those mountain top experiences, but the real work is in the valleys, in the depth of the human condition of sin and brokenness.
Jesus on that cross felt and experienced the human condition in all of it brutality. He knew the depth of suffering we human beings suffer; he knew the guilt, the anguish, the despair that comes with living life. He knew and felt it all on that cross and through the resurrection of Easter he conquered it all for us.
Jesus went to the mountain to be transfigured, but came down the mountain to be a savior. He calls to us to have a relationship with him, but then to come down into the human condition to minister to those around us with love and compassion.
Mountain top experiences are great, but living, working, helping, loving in the valleys are where Christ asks us to be. We have seen the pilot and the ship is well, our lives are well and we need to sail into the valleys of life with love and compassion, for our neighbor, who Christ bids us to love.
In each Holy Mass, the bread and wine we offer on the altar become “transfigured” – “transformed” into the crucified and risen, living body and blood of Jesus. Just as Jesus’ transfiguration strengthened the apostles in their time of trial, each holy Mass should be our source of heavenly strength against temptations, and our renewal during Lent. In addition, our holy communion with the living Jesus should be the source of our daily “transfiguration,” transforming our minds and hearts so that we may do more good by humble and selfless service to others.