|Jesus' Transfiguration - Salvador Dali|
Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the and his clothes became white as light.
...we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Today we celebrate the Transfiguration. For whatever reason, Jesus brought three of His disciples to Mount Tabor to witness this miracle. They weren't sure what they were seeing, but they knew enough to throw themselves to the ground in the presence of Almighty God. St. Peter (who never did anything halfway) excitedly declares that he will erect tents on the mountain as a way of memorializing the event. But Jesus tells him and the others that they are not to tell people what they witnessed - at least not yet.
In the second reading, the requirement to be quiet has been lifted, and Peter tells new Christians not only of this event, but of its validity and meaning for them "Be attentive - this will be a light for the dark places you will have to traverse."
I suppose non-believers find this a quaint story. Not only did this Jesus guy fool everyone into believing that he was God, he performed magic tricks. Or maybe it isn't even that - maybe it's just a story, meant to fool others who didn't witness it.
It's odd that people find this hard to believe, because we live in a culture that is obsessed with transforming bodies. We eat clean, we workout, we compare ourselves to actors (who pay a lot of money for personal trainers.) We gulp kale smoothies and vitamins. Women are especially vulnerable to be transformers of their bodies: it's fine if you're pregnant, but you'd better be able to snap back to pre-pregnancy weight as quickly as possible. Our drugstores are filled with aisles and aisles of items to help us transform and transfigure ourselves: makeup, nail polish, hair products, weight loss products.
Our culture is currently obsessed with transgenderism: people who believe for one reason or another that they were really meant to be the other gender. Scientists tell us that this affects only about 1% of the population, yet there are those who spend most of their time telling the rest of us that we must make all kinds of concessions to this very small population. (For reference, 1% of the population will run a marathon in their lifetime, 1% will be incarcerated at some point, about 1% of women are 5'3" tall, and about .5% of people are vegans.)
But the Transfiguration of Christ? Somehow, people find it not believable.
We humans can do some pretty drastic things to transform ourselves, but ultimately these changes are only skin deep. One long-term study found:
Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population.
The only Transfiguration that truly matters is the one Christ is calling us to. And it is only in light of our transfiguration in Christ that we truly understand what our bodies are made for. (Let us remember that Christ did not leave behind His body after the Resurrection - no, it was transformed, transfigured. Our bodies are not "bad" - they are limited because of sin. But we are called to be transfigured.
Romano Guardini reminds us that Christ did not give us His spirit in order to save us - He gave His Body and Blood. What more do we need to know about being transfigured?
...through the Holy Eucharist we participate again and again in the transfigured reality at once human and divine. Because communion in his flesh and blood is the remedy of immortality ... of an immortality not only spiritual but corporal; of man caught up in the abundance of pure corporal and pure spiritual life in God. (The Lord)
Thus, the Transfiguration is not only about Jesus revealing Himself more fully. No: it is a sign for us. Christ is calling us to be transformed ourselves, to be transfigured into living signs of Christ and the Heavenly Kingdom He has both established and wishes to establish. We are called to be better than our diet, our health, the status of beauty. We are meant to be transfigured in Christ - it is the only change that truly matters.