“And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.”
— Matthew 17:2
The Gospel reading from this past Second Sunday of Lent was about the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-9).
As John Foley, SJ, explains: “The apostles suddenly behold Jesus with his divinity shining forth. It shows through their blinders (and frightens them). Their experience of Jesus is transfigured. For a moment they see Jesus in the complete union with God that he is. … In Jesus, divinity and humanity are together in one person. Daily onlookers saw only the human, but in this passage, Jesus is showing the apostles his whole self, divinity in its complete presence within its humanity.”
The reading starts out by saying this event takes place “six days later.” Six days after what? In the previous chapter (Matthew 16:21-23), Jesus tells his disciples about his future crucifixion and resurrection. When Peter insists this must not happen (he had, after all, recently declared Jesus the Messiah), Jesus calls him Satan and accuses him of trying to get in the way of God’s plan.
Yet here, less than a week later, Jesus gives Peter another chance and includes him among just three disciples he brings with him on a trip up a mountain to demonstrate his unquestionable divinity. It’s kind of like going on a much-needed retreat. Perhaps it is because Peter was defiant that Jesus does this. Peter is, after all, the rock upon which Jesus will build his church, so it looks like he requires more chiseling.
(As I write this, in the middle of winter’s last-gasp (we hope) blizzard, the outdoors, like Jesus on the mountain, are also “dazzling white.” And my tired, 17-year-old snow blower, chugging through 30-inch drifts and generous piles of snow left by our town snowplows, is giving me another chance not to have to shovel by hand. Gratefully, every time it restarts after stalling, I experience the divine. And I thank God.)