Anything But Ordinary

Transfiguration. That’s a word, much like consubstantial and transubstantiation, that we use in here… but, not so much out there. Go ahead, I dare you to try to use transfiguration, consubstantial, or transubstantiation in a non-religious complete sentence out there in your daily life. They are in fact, quite unique words. Unique because we need more than everyday, ordinary words to describe something that is far from the ordinary.

Peter, James, and John, Jesus’ inner circle disciples, had anything but an ordinary day when Jesus invited them to the mountain top on that particular day. Jesus was transfigured into something very different, all glowing and bright. His hidden nature was revealed to them for just a moment and then, after they heard the word of God himself and were cowering in fear and confusion over what was taking place, Jesus reassured them, as he often did. He said: “Rise and do not be afraid.”

Rise and do not be afraid.” Now this was the Jesus they had come to know.

It is always a great source of interest and curiosity for me that Jesus would also often say whenever something awesome, impressive, and particularly revealing had happened, that they should not tell anyone else about it. And that is exactly what he did after the transfiguration.

Jesus, who was trying to persuade others that he was in fact the very messiah they had been waiting for, asked the witnesses of his supreme divinity to not let others know about that. Interesting. Curious.

We are a sacramental faith tradition and have been from the start. In our sacraments, there is that which we see, such as a small wafer of bread, and that which we don’t, which is the presence of Christ himself. Jesus appeared to be an ordinary man from the outside. But we know that he was more than meets the eyes. This is sacramental.

Jesus’ inner circle disciples got a glimpse that day. They saw beyond the ordinary.

But why the secrets, I wonder?

I wonder… if Jesus would rather people know he is the messiah because of his message, because of his mercy. Because of the version of himself that reassured the disciples, not the one that made them cower in fear as they had when they saw his divinity and heard the voice of his Father booming from behind a cloud.

I wonder… if Jesus knew that if everyone saw the transfigured version of him, then it would be wonder, amazement, or maybe even fear that would make us follow. Perhaps it was more about the reassurance, the hope, the idea of second chances and never being forgotten no matter what, that motivated his ministry instead.

Soon enough, we will be contemplating the Passion of this man, the one who served and who sacrificed. Who suffered for us. The Resurrection is coming and we celebrate all that when the stone is turned back on Easter morning. But that part we see, experience, and can most easily identify with in this life will be what came before Easter. That is, the journey toward Jerusalem. The capture and then the painful waiting. The trials. The march up Calvary. The nails and the cross.

What does the spectacle of the transfiguration and his desire to keep it hidden, for a time, say about our faith? And how we can best live out our faith? My sense is that rather than focusing only on the reward, we must be present to the now… within the march, the waiting, and the trails.

The Jesus who reassured his disciples in their confusion and fear does the same for us. That version of him gave us love, hope, mercy, and forgiveness. And all these are anything but ordinary.

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