According to the Gospel writer, Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him, heads out to a mountain, and there «in their presence was transfigured». These are the three disciples who apparently offer the greatest resistance to Jesus when he speaks to them about his painful destiny of crucifixion.
Peter has even tried to knock these absurd ideas out of Jesus’ head. The brother James and John go about asking for the front seats in the Messiah’s Kingdom. It’s precisely in their presence that Jesus is transfigured. They need it more than anyone else.
The scene is grandiose, presented through various symbolic features. Jesus appears «clothed» in God’s own glory. Right alongside him are Elijah and Moses talking with him: according to tradition they had been snatched from death and are living with God. Everyone is invited to intuit Jesus’ divine condition, crucified by his adversaries, but resurrected by God.
Peter reacts completely spontaneously: «Rabbi, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah». He hasn’t understood anything. On one hand, he places Jesus on the same plane and status as Elijah and Moses. On the other hand, he keeps resisting the difficulty of Jesus’ path; what he wants to hold onto is the glory of Tabor, far from the passion and cross of Calvary.
God Self will correct him in a solemn way: «This is my Son, the Beloved». No one can confuse him with anyone else. «Listen to him», even when he speaks to you about the path of the cross, which ends in resurrection.
Only Jesus irradiates light. All the rest of us –prophets and teachers, theologians and hierarchy, doctors and preachers– we have our faces darkened. We don’t need to confuse Jesus with anyone else. He alone is the Beloved Son. His Word is the only one we need to hear. All other words need to lead us to him.
We need to listen to this Word even today, when he speaks to us of «carrying the cross» of our times. Success damages us Christians. It has gone so far as to let us think that it’s possible for the Church to be faithful to Jesus and the project of his Reign, without conflicts, without rejection, without cross. Today there are all kinds of opportunities for us to live as Christians «crucified». It will do us good. It will help us to recover our Christian identity.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf