Reflecting on the Transfiguration of Jesus: Keys to Recognizing God in our Daily Lives
On August 6, we will celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration. This Feast (like the actual event) is designed to celebrate the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God. In other words, our goal should be to experience the full impact of our belief that Jesus is the Son of God. In order to do so, let’s reflect on the details of this great event together.
After six days 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. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. (Mark 9: 2-8)
It is the response of Peter which has always been most fascinating to me. Upon seeing Jesus transfigured, he seemingly begins talking nonsense. “He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.” (Mark 9:6) What is really occurring? Why is he so surprised?
On the one hand it is natural to be in a state of awe when confronted with the glory of God. However, in another manner, Peter ought not be so unprepared. For he has walked side by side with the Jesus for several years. He has witnessed miracle after miracle. In the previous three chapters of Mark’s gospel alone, he has seen Jesus drive out a demon, heal a deaf man, heal a blind man, and feed 4000 people with just seven loaves and a few fish. He himself has been sent out to successfully heal the sick and drive out demons. Most importantly, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he has declared to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16: 16)
So how is it that Peter is caught so unprepared for Jesus' transfiguration? I would propose it is because he has not been fully attuned to all he has seen and done.
What Does It Mean for Us?
The transfiguration is then the event finally and fully pierces Peter’s awareness. It should do so for us as well. However, to fully appreciate this event, we must place ourselves in the character of Peter. Doing so presents the question, “Do I fail to recognize the revealed glory of Jesus in my daily life?” I believe that for most of us (especially me), the answer is yes. I also believe that reflecting on the transfiguration provides insight into the three primary causes.
First, the location of the transfiguration is noteworthy. Jesus “…led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.” (Mark 9:2) The full glory of Jesus (while still manifest) is difficult to recognize amidst the busyness of daily life. The action of God can be obscured by frantic activity. Full recognition requires time for reflection. Intentional time spent with Jesus. One must then ask, “Am I spending enough time apart to recognize Jesus’s revealed work in my life?”
Luke’s account provides another interesting detail which may provide insight into the second cause. “Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory…” (Luke 9:32)
They had been overcome by sleep. This, perhaps, provides context for the incoherent mumblings of Peter. For he is a man struggling to revive from a dream.
We must ask ourselves, “In what manner am I overcome by sleep?” For very few people lose their faith intentionally or via conscious choice. Rather, we drift away from the Lord as one falling into a slumber.
Perhaps, it is not physical sleep that dulls our senses to the presence of the Lord. Often it is the distraction of various pleasures. We must ask, “Am I too connected to my phone? Entertainment? Or some frivolous interest?” Not that any of these are bad in their own right. I must simply examine whether they take an excessive amount of my time or attention and in so doing distract from Christ.
Finally, we must ask if we are aware of Jesus’s actions within the mundane activities of daily living. As mentioned above, Peter was in position to see the glory of God on a daily basis. I cannot help but wonder if the signs and miracles lost their wonder because they were happening every day.
One remedy for this is practicing gratitude through a daily act of thankfulness. This can take many forms. One might consider keeping a journal and recording one instance of grace received each day. In our house, we go around the dinner table and name one occasion within the day for which we would like to thank God. Whatever the practice, the goal is to become more aware of the subtle (and not so subtle) that God’s glory is manifest in our lives.