Second Sunday of Lent March 12 2017
Mt 17: 1-9
It isn't surprising that mountains are understood as sacred and mysterious places , we discover that from the oldest traditions of our human ancestors they have been held in reverence and fear. Even the conquest of mountain peaks by skilled climbers cannot dent their mystique or power , they are one of the places on this little planet that humans have no control over for there is something mysterious and enhancing about being at the top of a mountain, even a small one. To look down over the world spread below is both a humbling and a magnificent experience. However there is also that sense of being on top of the world, yet close to something else, the realm of the gods, the other world we cannot see but sense and feel!
The account of the transfiguration of Jesus has elements of our experiences, fear, exhaustion at a hard journey, of being somewhere difficult to get to, confusion as the mist and clouds clothe the summit removing boundaries and landmarks, plunging the disciples (and ourselves) into a disorientated world made more mysterious by the sudden change to Jesus who becomes that very light from light, whose face is brighter than that of Moses coming down from Mount Horeb and whose clothes are so dazzling, words almost fail to describe his beauty except in terms of light.
What does it mean, why is it in the gospel accounts? That is was a true encounter is hardly to be doubted, the resonances are too powerful on all sorts of levels, for it is a 'pivotal moment', a miracle that is not worked by Jesus but is done for and to him. It is when we glimpse Jesus as he truly is God made flesh, the one who is the risen one, higher than all creation, whose power is disorientating because he is found amongst the humble of earth. There the disciples glimpsed Him: ' "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. (2 Peter 1: 17)'
Yet it is our miracle and future encounter too, it points to what we also shall be, for the deepest motivation of the Transfiguration is Love: the love that changes and transforms, that never ends. Moses and Elijah witness the face of the Loving God seen in Jesus. With the disciples we too will meet him face to face. We shall not be confused but know and understand all and realize just how we are loved, we shall be on top of the mountain!
Fr Robin Gibbons is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for the Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church Oxford