It all started three years earlier when the Apostles met Jesus. It was a meeting that changed their lives. It was the greatest thing that could have happened to them. For three years they were with Him practically day and night. They ate, drank and literally walked the length and breath of Galilee with Jesus. They witnessed countless miracles, listened to numerous sermons, they were familiar with Him yet they did not know Him.
There are so many of us, husbands and wives, parents and children, living under the same roof, breaking bread on the same table, sleeping in the same room and we still do not know each other. Something goes wrong and we are astonished that that person could have done such a thing. We are amazed to know that the person is capable of such nobility and heroism. It is possible to spend an entire lifetime with someone and at the end still not know him or her, we can spend a whole lifetime in the Catholic Church and still not know Christ personally.
Jesus takes them up the mountain, there was nothing but rocks, stones, silence and solitude. There was nothing to distract or disturb them. It was easy for them to give Jesus their total attention. It was in that atmosphere of peace and quiet that Jesus reveals himself to them. Their eyes were opened and they saw Him in all His glory. He was transfigured and they were completely overwhelmed.
What a moment it was! They were so happy, they just wanted to stay there forever and never leave. “Let’s pitch tent here, away from the pain and suffering and ugliness of the world.” But Jesus’ work was not finished and theirs had hardly begun. So the vision ended and He led them down the mountain, back to earth to finish life’s work, back to face the challenges thy had not even imagined when they said “yes” to Jesus a short time ago.
We can all relate to this experience. Each one of us have had one of the rare moments of transfiguration., the first love, the proposal, the wedding day, the first child, graduating from school or college, getting your driving license, your first car, first pay check. We have been to the top of the mountain at least once. Life did not stop. Like Peter, when we have our moment, our response is to hold on to the moment, freeze time.
Let’s follow the plot. Moses and Elijah are speaking to Jesus, they are talking about the road to Jerusalem. It is the road that leads to Calvary and suffering and death. In this transfiguration moment, life was not standing still, it did not last forever, for anyone.
The feelings that a couple feel at the beginning of their relationship are not quite the same feelings, one maybe two years later. They may be better, hopefully deeper and richer. But they may also be worse. The feelings are never the same. We grow older, loved ones die, the job gets boring, the neighbourhood has changed. The “transfiguration” did not last. In its place we have a sense of loss, the loss of the wonderful, the loss of expectation.
The next stage begins here for those who persevere. It comes with reflection and prayer and often a lot of pain. It begins when we share the burdens with each other, with sympathy and wisdom. Life is not lived on the mountaintops but in the valleys. Slowly we begin to see a different light – the losses, the sicknesses, the disappointments, the addictions, the weaknesses and failures, the baggage we take on the journey. We catch a glimmer of what Moses and Elijah were talking about. It was necessary for Jesus to come down the mountain and hit the road to Jerusalem and climb Mount Calvary and carry on, beyond death to Resurrection, from suffering to transfiguration. It will be the same for us, we follow a crucified leader.
As life unfolds we come to understand that the price of the things e hold most dear is far greater than we had imagined in the beginning. Everything looked so simple when we said ‘yes’ or “I do.” The price of our lives and dreams become clearer, we experience the desire to ask for a refund, to run away and retreat to a place that is warm, comfy and safe. This is how we can “relate” to Jesus, we know He has gone through it all. He knows what it is to be worn out and afraid, to feel that you have had enough and cant take anymore, to want to run away and not come back. He tells us “Have courage, fear not. I am with you every step of the way.”
So we hit the road together. There is no avoiding the road to Jerusalem. It takes us up another mountain called Calvary, to certain death and beyond, to Resurrection and final glory. We should never forget the voice of God ringing in our ears saying to us “You are my beloved in whom I am well pleased.”
Life is not a straight line, but a series of hills and valleys. The desert experiences are simply the only way to the next oasis which is far more lush and beautiful after the desert crossing than it could have possibly have been without it.