… [Jesus] took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28-31)
In the old days, when movie trailers were called “previews”, we had a chance to see what was coming to the theatre in our town. Then, as now, these “coming attractions” would provide a glimpse of what a movie would portray in its entirety when released. In a perfect storm (from the studio’s perspective) the preview would whet the appetite of the viewer and result in big box-office receipts. In reality, only a few movies ever achieve the kind of trajectory that leads to “blockbuster” status.
When Peter, John, and James witnessed the Transfiguration, they were given a glimpse of what was to come in their lives, and in the “life of the world to come.” This “preview” was an encounter like no other, and prompted Peter’s request to pitch three tents and stay on the mountaintop. It must have been very hard to return to ordinary daily life after witnessing such a miraculous event. God gently pushed them out of the “nest” of their euphoria:
While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen. (Luke 9:34-36)
Something Beyond Life on Earth
It became clear to Peter, John, and James that there was something beyond life on Earth, and that somehow the past, present, and future would be reconciled in Christ. While not readily apparent or understandable, Elijah, Moses, and Jesus were seen as being of one accord, in bodies that appeared to be glorified. The Apostles Creed, yet to be written, would state our belief in “the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. The Transfiguration provided a view of the life that awaits all Christians “marked with the sign of Faith”.
As we follow Christ during the liturgical seasons of the year, we can be mindful that our true hope as stated in the last chapter of the Apostles Creed is shared by all mainline Christian denominations:
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
“We Firmly Believe”
The holy catholic (universal) Church that is comprised of every baptized person who ever was, is now, and ever will be, will undergo the “resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting” expressly promised by and realized through Christ. The Catechism of The Catholic Church states:
The Christian Creed—the profession of our faith in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and in God’s creative, saving, and sanctifying action—culminates in the proclamation of the resurrection of the dead on the last day and in life everlasting.
We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day. Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 988-989)
Prepare to Receive Jesus
As we approach the end of Lent, we are called to pay particular attention to how we can “till our soil” to receive Jesus during the Easter season, and ultimately in the Second Coming. The parable of the sower provides a template that helps us remove the “weeds” that find their way into our lives. This unwanted growth that represents the byproduct of indulgent behavior could be caused by everything from candy and alcohol to bitterness and un-forgiveness. Our Lenten sacrifices can clear the way to provide transformation in this life, and a sure place among Elijah, Moses, and Jesus in the next.