When news of a loved one’s death comes, we do not want to acknowledge it as true. If somebody points out a bad habit we have that needs to be broken, we get defensive and say they are wrong. If we do something we know is sinful we find ways to rationalize why it was alright to do after all. Bad news makes us want to shut down and pretend we did not hear it or that it did not happen.
In the Gospel story of the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah confronted Jesus with the bad news of his impending suffering and death. Faced with such news, rather than shutting down, Jesus became radiant. His willingness to see the pain that was ahead opened his eyes to see the glory that would be born from that very pain. And it literally showed on his face. While all this was going on, his apostles, Peter, James and John were overcome with sleep. It is almost as if the discussion of the most significant yet painful time in Jesus’ life was too much for them, so they shut down. It was only after they woke up that they were able to see the magnificence of God’s glory shining on the face of Jesus (Luke 9:28-36).
On the mountain top that day, Peter, James and John saw that facing into the pain leads to glory. Refusal to shut down and run away or go to sleep in the midst of life’s struggles and passages allows the glory of God to shine forth. What passages lie ahead for us? Looking for a new job, dealing with a family conflict, living without someone who died, gathering the courage to forgive or to ask for forgiveness, taking a stand on a moral issue, living with a newly diagnosed illness, acknowledging an addiction, opening our eyes to the real sufferings of others in the world. Whatever it is, we can shut down or face the pain. Jesus’ transfiguration tells us that the moment of facing the pain, as difficult as it may be, is the moment of glory.
On the mountain top that day, Jesus had not yet endured the profound suffering of his passion and death. When he allowed himself to face the difficulty ahead, the glory of God shone on him and his Father called him his beloved Son, his chosen one. If we face whatever passage is ahead instead of shutting down, God will say the same to us.
Together in faith,
Very Reverend Christopher Smith, Rector, Christ Cathedral