“And he was transfigured before them.” (Matthew 17:2)
When Words Fail
Often when I pray with and reflect on Matthew’s Gospel account of the Transfiguration, I am struck by the disciples’ response to the event. They are awestruck; they do not know what to think or say. Peter hesitates and fumbles a bit in his speech before expressing his gratitude and desire to remain in the moment: “Lord, it is good that we are here.” The disciples prostrate themselves, as unable to move as they are to speak. All in all, it is an indescribable moment of intimate encounter with Jesus.
But perhaps we can meditate for a moment on the cause of the disciples' awe, joy, and even confusion—the transfigured Jesus. Chapter 17 of Matthew’s Gospel begins six days after Jesus’s first prediction of his passion and death. Jesus took Peter, James, and John “up a high mountain by themselves.” Then almost without warning, we are precipitated into one of Jesus’s most remarkable manifestations in all the Gospels. In five simple words, we are told that “[Jesus] was transfigured before them.”
What lies behind this simple sentence? The Transfiguration is a multi-layered event. It is a preparation for Jesus’s coming passion and death. It is a foreshadowing of his resurrection as well as a revelation and a confirmation of his divinity. And for every disciple, the Transfiguration is also an invitation.
God is Waiting for Your Answer
Every revelation of Jesus’s identity is a revelation of his love, because love is who he is. And every revelation of Jesus’s love is a revelation of our identity. We find the heart of who we really are, the core of our identity, in Jesus’s love for us. When we know—really know—that Jesus loves us, then three things become very clear: first, we are lovable; second, we can count on Jesus’s love; and third, if I am loved, then I can love too.
This knowledge of God’s love for us, which is the love “that surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:19), reveals our identity. However, it is not a static revelation. It is a revelation that both invites and reveals, because the revelation of God’s love for us invites a response. When God tells us, “I love you,” he is waiting for an answer. He will wait an eternity, and his love will never be contingent on our answer, but he will wait. Our love is very precious to God. He longs to say to us, as he says to the bride in the Song of Songs, “You have ravished my heart” (Song 4:9).
God’s love invites a response in another way. As we know, the greatest commandment is twofold: love of God, and love of neighbor. So the revelation of God’s love also invites us to love others. Every so often it is good to pause and think about how incredible it is that we can make our love for God real in our love for others. How is Jesus inviting us to put this into practice in our daily lives?
Discovering Your "Transfiguration Moments"
“And he was transfigured before them.” Jesus did not intend for the transfiguration experience to remain on the mountain. Jesus was transfigured so that the disciples could be transfigured; the disciples were transfigured so that they could be instruments of transfiguration for others. We, too, are transfigured—in Baptism, in the Eucharist, in the sacraments, in our response to God’s call—in order to invite others to the same transfiguration.
Let us ask ourselves:
- What have been “transfiguration moments” in my life—moments when Jesus was more clearly revealed to me?
- How does God’s love reveal my deepest identity to me?
- How am I transfigured, and how am I an instrument of transfiguration for others?
A Discerner’s Prayer
Jesus, I believe that you are constantly revealing your love to me. I believe that your love transfigures and changes me. Help me to open myself always more to your love. Amen.
Sr. Emily Beata Marsh, FSP, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She professed her final vows in June 2018. She is currently serving in the Pauline mission of evangelization through the media and in the vocation apostolate in Alexandria, VA.