Do you think maybe the rest of the Twelve might have been jealous when they heard the story Peter, James and John had to tell about the Transfiguration?
Frankly, I might have felt at least a twinge of envy if I had been in the other Apostles’ shoes. You know: What made Peter, James and John so special? Why were they allowed to see Christ glorified so much sooner than the rest?
Heck, the way Luke recounts the tale, the trio almost booted the opportunity entirely (and in classic Petrine fashion) by dozing off even as a pretty remarkable scene unfolded:
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep,
but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
‘Becoming fully awake’…Yeah, I guess so, Peter!
And here’s a clue: You might want to keep that little strategy in mind whenever Jesus takes you off with him to pray!
As these admittedly snarky thoughts rumbled around in my brain today, I began to ponder the whole notion of what it means to be “special” in God’s eye. In Sunday’s first reading, Abraham – our patriarch in faith – seems to get a pretty clear indication:
The Lord God took Abram outside and said,
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
So ‘special’ must involve riches of some sort, right? God blesses you with descendants… or property…or bank accounts…that tally up higher than the next guy’s?
But the more I meditated upon the story of the Transfiguration, the more I realized that I was probably missing the point entirely.
Jesus is clearly ‘special’ in the eyes of God. After all, right there on the mountaintop, Peter, James and John hear God say:
‘This is my chosen Son; listen to him.’
I thought about those words…and about how my inclination had been to dwell on the ability to see Jesus in his glory…and to whom that gift of sight had been granted.
…Because just a few verses earlier in Luke’s gospel, Jesus speaks pretty plainly on that topic. A week or so before he took Peter, James and John out for their mountaintop experience, Jesus taught them this:
‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’
It’s so easy to get blinded by the light of discipleship, isn’t it? To dwell on what it means to be loved by God? Only by listening to Jesus do we learn the fullness of the truth. There’s profit to be found in being favored by God, alright. But the riches will look nothing like what we, in our brokenness and self-centeredness, tend to expect.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.