JESUS TOOK PETER, JAMES AND JOHN ALONE WITH HIM IN PRIVATE, UP A HIGH MOUNTAIN, AND HE WAS TRANSFIGURED BEFORE THEM. The witness given him by the Father as his hidden glory burst through the outward form of his body and gave a radiance to his form and clothing that was more than earthly opens up unsuspected horizons of the spirit for those privileged to assist at this scene. This mysterious event marks a turning point in Jesus' life, as he himself indicates immediately after it transpires, as he descends this mountain with his three chosen companions. For then he tells them clearly of his coming death and resurrection. They are to keep this vision within their own heart; others are not able to grasp its significance and so it must remain hidden from them for now. After his death, when he has risen into a permanent state of glory they will communicate it, for then the Spirit will prepare the hearts and souls of those persons who are chosen by God to belong to him through faith in his risen Son. For this special grace of vision does not substitute for faith, but rather calls for a more committed, livelier belief in the beloved Son of God as our unique Savior. In today's first reading this truth is brought home forcibly: Without faith it is impossible to please God. The one who draws near to God must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who seek Him.
There are any number of lessons for us to take from this mysterious revelation on Mount Tabor and each of us here perhaps will draw the one that speaks most clearly to his or her own spirit at this time. A particular aspect of this Transfiguration that strikes me is the fact that Jesus chose to share this vision in a solitude he shared only with persons he took apart from the ordinary bustle of life. To see him in glory his intimate friends had to climb a very high mountain. Even today with a good paved road to walk up the heights of Tabor is a challenging and lengthy effort. Most drive up. Once there, as I had occasion to learn not so long ago, one looks on the rest of the world as it were, from a great distance. This is the setting in which Jesus suddenly manifested something of his inmost person to his closest friends. Everything in sight pertaining to the human scene seems small and emotionally removed. Only virgin nature appears magnificent and impressive; everything invites to awesome reflection so that such thoughts as these arise spontaneously within us.
Who are the people we live with day by day in the depths of their being? How well do we understand their capacity for a higher, nobler life? for sacrifice? What is the worth of our associates, our brothers, friends and family? Do we know them in their deepest self? Do we even know who we ourselves are in the more profound reaches of our heart? What mysteries are hidden within each of us! Jesus invites us to explore this hidden world where we encounter the transcendent dimensions of our being where we encounter God himself. We are all made in his image; we are his children and that means we can know Him and love Him as He is in Himself, even though our understanding will always fall short of his uncircumscribed essence.
As we open the ears of our heart to these words of the Gospel today and approach the altar where we enter into communion with the same glorified Christ who appeared to the chosen apostles, may his grace strengthen us in our resolve to be faithful to this high call. May we follow the Lord Jesus through his passion to the glory of his resurrection by lives of faith and fidelity to his word day by day. Then shall we be truly sons and daughters of God and heirs of the kingdom where he lives forever in glory.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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