This Sunday: The Giant World Inside You
This Sunday, the Feast of the Transfiguration reveals the truth about Jesus. And that makes us wonder: What is the truth about us?
It all starts when Jesus takes Peter, John and James up Mount Tabor. As they watch, “he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.”
They are witnessing the true glory of Jesus Christ, who is God and man. But from this we can also learn the true glory of human beings, who are both body and soul, says St. Thomas Aquinas: “He will reform the body of our lowness configured to the body of his glory.”
All of the Transfiguration readings are meant to remind us that we are much greater than we think.
In the first reading, we meet Jesus, and he is not how we normally picture him. “One like a Son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven,” the Book of Daniel describes him. “Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him. … His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away.”
If that sounds like a “cleverly devised myth”, the second reading, from St. Peter, reassures us it is not. Calling himself an “eyewitness of his majesty,” he says the voice of the Father — “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” — was absolutely real. “We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain,” he assures us.
If Christ’s transfiguration is meant to give us a foretaste of who we will be, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, then we are truly great.
The priest-poet Gerard Manley Hopkins put it this way:
Oh, the mind, mind has mountains,
Cliffs of fall, frightful sheer,
No man fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there.
Any soul that was made in the image and likeness of God is immense, and worthy our serious attention. Gazing into our soul is like gazing into a mountain vista. There are real depths and heights there.
But this is precisely why care for our soul is so important — and so difficult.
The Gospel this Sunday hints at a way through. First, it shows Jesus at his transfiguration visited by Moses and Elijah. The two figures have a lot in common, says St. John Chrysostom: They both spoke on behalf of the faithless, they both faced down tyrants, they both led people way from idolatry, neither was eloquent, and both were poor.
In other words, they both saw the true importance and grandeur of the human person — and responded with extreme humility.
We are invited to do the same.
“We possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable,” writes Peter. Then, his closing line sounds like an invitation to a journey — to bring Christ’s light to the dark places in your heart.
“You will do well to be attentive,” he writes, “as to a lamp shining in a dark place — until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. “