When I was young and in college, I was lucky to meet my friend Ruth. We instantly hit it off and became friends for life. One day, she invited me to her family’s Seder meal at Passover. I of course was very honored to be invited. It was one of those experiences I will never forget. I was very impressed and moved at the ritual, taking in the meaning behind the symbols present at the meal. I reveled in the reading from the Haggadah, a retelling of the Exodus, where God freed the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. I observed the symbols present and their deep meaning; the egg for new life, the bitter herbs for sorrow and slavery, to name a few. It was the first time I had awareness and understanding of the deep connection between Judaism and Christianity. It was a beginning of an education for a young Catholic school girl who asked her first Jewish friend, “Oh do you celebrate Thanksgiving?”
My friendship with Ruth only deepened when Ruth’s Mom encouraged my curiosity and explained to me the significance of the founding of modern day Israel. I still have the pamphlet she gave me 50 years ago. I have reflected on it and furthered my education as a participant in Pope John Paul’s Catholic and Jewish discussion groups in the 1990s.
Why am I recounting these experiences? I sometimes I think we forget that Jesus was a devout Jew. I am reminded of that in my reading of today’s Gospel. It is through that lens; Jesus’ and his disciples’ observant Judaism that the Transfiguration occurs.
Jesus asks Peter and the two brothers, James and John to come with him up a mountain. When they arrive at the top, “Jesus becomes transfigured before them, his clothes become dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.” Then Elijah appeared to them with Moses. Moses and Elijah represent the law and the prophets. God speaks to Peter, James, and John, and states; This is my beloved Son-listen to Him.” This was to signify that Jesus was indeed the fulfillment of the law and the promised Messiah.
Like me, and perhaps you sometimes, Peter is confused, he wants to build a tent for them. In preparing for our prayer today, I envisioned myself going up that mountain with Jesus. I invite you to maybe, if you are comfortable, to close your eyes and envision yourself there too. Imagine Jesus right before your eyes, He becomes transformed, and the light radiating from Him is celestial, the most beautiful light you have ever seen. You are enveloped with wonder and you hear the voice of God say; ‘THIS IS MY SON, LISTEN TO HIM.’ Sit with this feeling for a moment.
As we come down off the mountain, we too are to be transformed. Pope Francis, in one of his Transfiguration Sunday homilies said: “It is important to climb up the mountain with Jesus, to be more attentive to the voice of God and allow oneself to be enveloped and transformed by the Holy Spirit.”
In our faith journey this Lent, we may ask ourselves: How can I be more attentive to the voice of God? Can I put myself in the hands of God and allow myself to be transformed, to let go of the urge to control? For some of us, we may need to do this everyday, I know I do. Many times I feel like Peter, stubborn, confused, reactive. I pray to remind myself the promise of our Baptism and rebirth. I pray to take the time with God, to climb the mountain and pray. And to come back down transformed, remembering… This is my Son, Listen to Him.