Transfiguration Sunday – divine listening

Transfiguration Sunday was last week. Of course Transfiguration, a story found in the three synoptic gospels, takes at least a week to moodle through:

High on a mountain, after much prayer, now weighted down with sleep, the disciples hallucinate. Or perhaps dream a dream, or see a vision, or experience the thinnest place on earth, where the invisible meets the visible, and the ethereal weaves itself into the corporeal.

Moses and Elijah "appear in glory," but not as blazingly white as Jesus, and the three of them discuss Jesus’ exit. Do they advise him? Moses, presumably, died of old age, Elijah was transported straight to do they advise him, or do they make plans for getting together over a wineskin after it’s all over? We’re left guessing.

In the mean time, the disciples are terrified and they fall down in fear. Peter, beside himself, blurts out something that entirely misses the mark. We recognize this. It’s the need to do something, say something, in the midst of being knocked off your feet. An experience as human as busting out an expletive when shocked. Here, almost moment of humour amidst awe.

And then tenderness: Jesus touches them, "Get up, be not afraid." Words of mercy.

In Matthew’s version, Jesus instructs the disciples to keep the whole episode to themselves until after his resurrection. Wise advise. (Should you be one that has seen a UFO, I will advise you in like manner.)

No way around it, this is a divinity story; God under the cover of thick cloud says, "This is my Son, my Chosen, the Beloved, listen to him!"

But how should I listen?

There is a story relayed by Mary Gordon in, “Reading Jesus,” about a priest who worked with a mentally handicapped man. The priest asked the man if he prayed and the man said yes, and said that what he meant was that when he prayed he listened. And the priest asked him what he heard. And the man said, “I hear: ‘You are my beloved.’”


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