18th Tuesday in Ordinary Time
Feast of the Transfiguration
Jesus took Peter, John and James up a high mountain and he was transfigured before them. All three gospels Saints Matthew, Mark and Luke are very clear about the Transfiguration and that it happened before the apostles – not in some hidden corner but right before their very eyes. The rest of the disciples were left at the base of the mountain. Peter, James and John were to be eyewitnesses of the Transfiguration of Jesus.
I would like to point out something interesting because it might seem so utterly dissimilar to the Transfiguration. Yet there are striking parallels and I believe these two seemingly opposite events are intimately connected.
In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus tells the rest of the disciples to sit and wait. It is as if there are left at the base of the mountain of revelation. Jesus takes (the very same word in Greek used as in the Transfiguration) Peter, James and John with Him. So we should expect some great revelation. What happens? Once again before their very eyes, not in some hidden corner, Jesus becomes very distressed and sorrowful. The problem is that we are captivated by the Transfiguration. It has got all the hallmarks of the divine – light, glory, overwhelming power. We pass by or tune out Gethsemane – because it shouts out aloud –embarrassing and humiliating weakness. We are turned off. We spend a lifetime hiding our shameful and secret weaknesses, a lifetime of masks, machismo and bombast to throw others off scent. And here God is trembling and pleading, out of control. He is not doing it in some corner, having His panic attack alone while He puts on a good face to impress the disciples. He is reduced to a blubbering mass of anguish before their very eyes, pleading with them to stay with Him. Yes God pleading with ordinary fishermen to keep Him company. No wonder we cannot find any connection between the light of the mount of Transfiguration and the fearful, overwhelming, even gloating darkness of Gethsemane.
And yet I believe they are intimately connected because God is not a magician. If He were just a magician there would have just been the Transfiguration. He waves his wand and we live happily ever after on the mountain. In truth, the Transfiguration is a glorification because of another glorification – Gethsemane and Calvary. This is strange that we think of them as a glorification when they seem like abject humiliation. But this is because we do not think God’s thoughts.
It is a glorification because the glory of God is not shown in power. Men have power and plenty of it. They lack love big time. God’s power can only really be seen in crazy love. Men cannot love like this. This is where the great divide separates man from God. Only God could pour Himself out right into the dregs of our humanity, not stopping once, not reconsidering, not holding back, right to the very depths of death and Hell, God being consumed on the Cross by His love – in order to transfigure. Love consumed in order to transfigure –this phrase is classic von Balthasar. This is the hidden connection. The Transfiguration as the terminus is possible because of the way of the Cross.
My brothers and sisters – God is not a magician. We cannot expect Him to wave a wand over our crosses and they vanish. The only way is the way marked out by Jesus – through the cross. For us in this life, the experience of the resurrection is not found in leapfrogging the cross, or by passing it- it is found intertwined with the cross. The saints know this intimately and this is why their lives must seem like madness to us who are always looking for an easy pass. The saints know this and this is why we find them in the most hopeless of places – there they find their transfigured Lord.