This is faith. This is faith, at least, as it is supposed to be. How often have we thought that faith is a matter of do’s and don’ts? How often have we been made to believe that faith is a burden, rather than joy? In Jesus’ presence, Peter discovers that it is good, it is beautiful.
A very short time before this experience, Jesus had told his friends that he was going to suffer passion, death, and then experience resurrection. Surely the disciples could not understand the meaning of all that. And yet, the little they could have understood – the passion and death bit; resurrection was something unheard of for them – they found very hard to accept. Moreover, we can also say that, through this experience, Jesus wanted to equip Peter, James and John for the passion-experience which was soon to come. In his foretelling, Jesus could not speak of death without making reference to the resurrection. And his oncoming death would not have made any sense without the resurrection. It is one whole event, and in the moment of darkness the disciple of Christ has to remember that there is always light and life waiting. And yet, talk of resurrection does not in any way deny the reality of suffering.
There are always moments of darkness to be lived in our lives, moments which challenge our faith which is very often taken for granted. As I write these reflections, I share the pain of many people who, in different ways, are going through darkness and suffering. On a global level, we have just witnessed the crash of an airplane killing 157 people. Within a few hours we’ve witnessed the terrorist attack in New Zealand, killing at least 49 people. These are not just numbers. For every victim there are friends, families, pained loved ones. On a more personal level then, I constantly witness stories of people who are going through darkness in their own lives: violence, failed marriages, death in the family, unexpected illnesses, etc. It is very easy to get disheartened in moments like this. It is very normal to start asking questions and, where faith had previously seemed so solid, now might feel all very shaky.
The story of the resurrection which we are about to celebrate at the end of this Lenten season, as does today’s story of Jesus’ transfiguration, helps us keep things in perspective. Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus about his “exodus” which was about to happen on another hill in Jerusalem, emphasize the fact that he really had to suffer the consequences of evil. But these stories tell us that evil does not have the last word. The voice of evil is never the loudest voice.
As we journey through our own desert during this lent, let us really listen to that voice saying: “This is my Son, listen to him!” And as we listen we start experiencing what Peter did in that short moment: it is good to be here. Let us really enjoy the beauty of his presence, of his word. Because without beauty, our soul dies.