In order to understand this Sunday’s gospel, the story of the Transfiguration, we have to understand a bit about the Jewish feast of Sukkot. This feast is also known as the feast of Tabernacles (meaning tent) or booths. It was the last feast that God asked the Israelites to observe. It took place for seven days during the fall, and marked the end of the agricultural year. The Jewish people would build temporary booths, or tents in which they would eat celebratory meals during the observance. These “tents” were built to remind them of their forty years in the desert before entering the Promised Land.
In Sunday’s gospel, Jesus takes three of his apostles, Peter, James and John up a mountain. Often times when something “momentous” happens in the bible, it involved a trek up a mountain, perhaps because the “height” makes one feel as though he is closer to heaven – closer to God. It is undoubtedly symbolic – perhaps it is “the climb” itself that is transforming.
There, Jesus is transformed before his friends’ very eyes. His body begins to glow, and his clothes became “dazzling white.” Jesus, loved his apostles, and his followers. He knew that soon they would witness his torturous death on the cross, and that they would need a “beatific vision” to get them through it all – something to hold onto! He instructs them not to tell what they had seen until after the resurrection. At that moment, they had no idea what “resurrection” meant. But when all was said and done, they would look back upon the heavenly sight of the transfiguration and put the pieces to the puzzle together. Jesus loved them so much that he wanted to give them hope – hope for His resurrection and hope for their own.
It’s funny how Peter sees Elijah and Moses in the vision with Jesus. Though the two had long since died, the vision of these Old Testament patriarchs must have been very convincing and real, because Peter immediately offered to pitch a tent for the two due to the festival that was being observed. How human! I could definitely see myself in Peter’s shoes in that situation!
Lastly, and probably most importantly, it is during the Transfiguration, that God reveals Jesus as His Son and commands the apostles to “Listen to Him.” How can we better “listen to Jesus” during this Lenten season? How can we transfigure/transform our lives so that we can be more like Him?