Last Epiphany :: Reality check

2009 UK Trip  290

MacLean's Cross, Isle of Iona

You can hardly blame the man.

All Peter wants is for this moment to last forever, to be “enshrined” as it were, as one of those rare, life-altering events which happen so infrequently, if at all, during one’s sojourn on earth. Coming between two predictions by Jesus of his arrest and passion at the hands of the authorities, the Transfiguration acts as a reminder to the faithful that He is the Beloved Child of a loving God, One to whom we must give full attention.

But this is not a sign-post in history that we can capture and hold onto forever. Like Peter, we simply cannot stay up on the mountain with Jesus, forever basking in the glory of his transcendence. We’ve got to come down the mountain and face the reality of a world which refuses to understand that the Beloved Child must suffer, casting in his lot with the rest of us.

Life events may often be punctuated by glimpses of the Holy Other and we want to hold onto them forever—weddings, coming of age, graduations, the birth of a child, a promotion at work, a first love. Filled with such joy and wonder in these times, we sense that the very air is charged with a sacramentality imparting God’s grace on all. It is only natural to want this experience to last.

But we too must come down the mountain. After the honeymoon comes the reality of struggle that a lasting marriage entails. The coming of age brings new responsibilities and the tough lesson that we are no longer children. After the graduation prom is over and the tux sent back one faces the real world of job-seeking and earning a living. When our newborn is brought home there are the two a.m. feedings and diaper changes and worry about what kind of world we are bringing her up in. After transcendence, reality kicks in and we have to slog through life as before.

And so it was for Peter, and James, and John. Misunderstanding who Jesus really was when they were with him, coming off that mountaintop must’ve been crushing for them. They hadn’t yet learned what we already know: the real glorification of Jesus came at his death on another mount altogether. And it was in that death that we come to know more fully about life. His life, given for others, is where true transformation may be found.

Link to RCL Lectionary for the Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year B

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