Isaiah 55: 1-3 + Psalm 145 + Romans 8: 35, 37-39 + Matthew 17:1-9
August 6, 2023 at Saint Peter the Apostle in Naples, Fl
We all have all had moments in our lives or experiences that we hoped would never end. I’ve had many of them, and I’m certain that you have too when just mention of it brings back those memories, those people, that place and time when we just hoped time would stop. I think this is exactly what Peter, James, and John felt that day Matthew has recorded for us in this Gospel.
As always, how that happened, when or where is less important than what it means for us. The Law and the Prophets were at the very heart of the Jewish religion, and there was their friend and teacher talking with the very representatives of the Law, Moses, and Prophet Elijah. There he is standing between them in conversation. Finally, that voice is heard affirming who it is there with Moses and Elijah, saying: “Listen to him.”
As we proclaim this Gospel here in this assembly, that voice still speaks telling us to listen. Peter, James, and John heard the command we have heard, and that moment became a turning point for them. For seventeen chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, they have been watching, but they have not done much listening. They watched the power of cure after cure, they loved those admiring crowds rushing and chasing around after Jesus, they experienced that feeding of thousands, but they were not listening. In the verses just before he takes them up that mountain he began to tell them that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering, and be killed. Instead of listening, Peter talks taking Jesus aside telling him it could never happen. Jesus spoke of self-denial, taking up a cross, and losing one’s life. They did not listen. They didn’t want any of that stuff.
What actually happened to Jesus on that mountain is irrelevant. What happened to the disciples is not. They heard what God expected of them. “Listen to my Son.” Here we are, reminded once again, that listening to what Jesus Christ has to say is what is expected of us. There comes a time when Bible Study must become Bible Listening, because by listening we can begin to know what God is like. If we want to hear God’s voice in our own time, if we want to know the will of God, we have to listen.
The wonder of the Transfiguration was not a light show but an invitation. If we want to know what God really looks like, we will should gaze on those who love God. They come with curly hair and bald heads. They are old and young, Christian, Muslim, Jew and more. Not even Michelangelo could imagine all the variations in which God chooses to appear among us. When we stop to listen to one another, the world will be transfigured.
Often missed in the telling or reading of this Gospel is that last gesture of Jesus. Remember, after they heard the voice, those three fell to the ground, but Jesus touched them. The power of this scene is not the vision of Jesus transfigured, but that healing touch offered to his beloved disciples. The disciples needed to be healed from their weakness of spirit, their lack of courage for what was to come.
It still works the same way today. We need the healing touch of Christ which is why we stretch out our hands, and once again let him touch us so that one day when we have fallen asleep in death he will say once again: Get up, and what we have feared will be no more and we will shine like the sun.