Last week on vacation, I climbed the highest mountain in Ireland. It was an experience that was physically rewarding but even more so spiritually. Knowing that every other person in the country was below me with only God above me was a wonderful moment of awareness and gave me an opportunity to intercede for all the people of the nation. The spectacular views on display while climbing gave a sense of true perspective; I was struck with wonder before the beauty of God’s creation. Near the top of the mountain, the light was suddenly blocked out as we entered into a thick cloud. Despite the loss of light and impaired visibility, we just kept climbing, one step at a time. Eventually, the shape of a large metal cross emerged before us, which marked our arrival at the summit. There, I prayed the fourth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, the Transfiguration, the feast that the Church celebrates tomorrow.
In Scripture, God reveals himself on mountaintops. In the Old Testament, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, and in the New Testament, Jesus gives us the Beatitudes after “going up a hill” (Matt. 5:1). Jesus died on the hill of Calvary, where the fullest revelation of his saving love took place. With the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, we have the revelation of Jesus’ divinity that shone through him as a blinding light for Peter, James, and John to behold (Matt. 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36).
The image that the Gospels use to convey the Transfiguration is light. Jesus’ face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. This is appropriate, for light allows us to see what is already there. Jesus was always divine, but people could not always see his divinity. On the top of Mount Tabor, it became clear to Peter, James, and John who Jesus truly was: “God from God” and “Light from Light,” as the Nicene Creed tells us. This light shone out from his humanity and concrete existence. God’s light shone through him and not apart from him. This point is crucial as we understand our lives in Christ. God’s grace and light shine through our humanity and make it radiant in transfiguration. Our faith in Christ is not an obstruction to living a fully human life; it is the source of living a fully human life.