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 | By Sister Ann Shields

Lectio Divina - Praying Through the Year With Scripture

Gospel for Aug. 6 – The Transfiguration of the Lord  

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 sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Mt 17:1-9)

This passage from Scripture is one of my favorite sections to read. Why? Because it tells us so much about God’s care for his disciples and, as a result, it speaks powerfully to what awaits us when we leave this earthly life and enter eternal life – fullness of life, true and lasting life forever. Even that is hard to grasp because we are finite. So, let’s “walk” through this scene. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain, and he is transfigured before them. What does that mean? As far as the disciples could tolerate, Jesus shows himself in his majesty and glory of God the Son.

Then something further happens: Jesus is seen conversing with Moses and Elijah. Peter speaks for them all when he asks the Lord if he could build three tents – dwelling places – for the majesty and splendor of Jesus and the reflection of that glory in Moses and Elijah. No dwelling could ever contain God’s glory, but Peter is trying to find a way, with his human resources, to honor them.

Then a bright cloud comes near and casts a shadow over them. They were being given a small taste of the majesty and power of God and the glory of heaven. I emphasize the word “small” in this sentence because we humans who are finite cannot grasp the infinite – not even a tiny taste without the help of God.

If all of this were not enough, they then hear a voice announcing to them: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; Listen to him!” Those last three words are addressed, not just to the first disciples, but to each of us who seek to follow Jesus.

How do we learn to listen?

  • We do what the disciples did. Daily bow before the Lord, and prostrate yourself before him.
  • Acknowledge his authority over you, worship his majesty and glory. Do it daily. Read the Psalms, sing the hymns, tell him in your own words of your desire to draw closer.
  • When you come before God daily in prayer, acknowledge your smallness before his majesty (that’s humility). Tell him you want to draw closer to him and you want to follow him more closely (that’s obedience). Ask him to help you, day by day.

Following the Transfiguration, Jesus, with great love, tells them to rise and not to be afraid. Jesus, in his mercy, has given them a taste of the presence of God – that their faith might increase and make them more prepared for the suffering that lies ahead.

Brothers and sisters who are reading this column: All I have done is to introduce you to this powerful encounter between God and human beings. But it is not just an account of what happened to three disciples. It is a sign of what awaits those of us who are faithful to him now – always repenting when we fail and getting back up again, just like St. Peter showed us so many times.