Hindsight is incredible isn’t it? Imagine, Peter, James, and John following Jesus as they made the strenuous assent, climbing higher and higher, stumbling a bit in the hot middle eastern sun. They couldn’t have know what was about to happen or what they were about to see. They wouldn’t have known – couldn’t have known! – what might lie over the next ridge never mind the view they would get at the top.
I wonder if they complained about the steepness of the climb or the rockiness of the trail. I wonder if they stumbled or were windblown and then cursed the God who designed that mountain or who allowed that gust of wind to shake their footing.
I wonder if, when they reached the summit, they wished they had been less critical of the mountain and its challenges and more open and accepting to God by their side.
Hindsight is 20-20, and for us, it is easy to see the greatness of Jesus even compared to great men like Moses and Elijah. We wonder how Peter, James, and John, three great disciples, three close friends of Jesus, could have mistaken our Lord for just another great prophet. Knowing the outcome of the event, we find it incredulous that these great men didn’t see then what we see so easily now. Too often we think we would never have done “that” or said “that” or thought “that,” but too often we do.
Too often we mistakenly feel isolated, abandoned, and alone on our journeys. Too often we fail to recognize the Lord as He walks along the trail with us. Too often we mistakenly put our faith in people and places it doesn’t belong. Too often we are then disappointed and turn the blame on God.
We are physical, visual, tactile creatures, and we tend to put our faith in what is conveniently in front of us rather than searching for what is real. It is easy and understandable to rely on a spouse, a parent, even a child for love and support, for protection and understanding. It is easy and understandable to rely on education and hard work, on a career and investments for security and prestige.
But none of these completely fulfills us. None of these thoroughly satisfies. None of these is ever enough. Each keeps us wanting more. The question is,
Do we recognize this or
do we put too much faith in that which is not God?
Do we walk the line, giving proper credit to our loved ones and to our own hard work without mistakenly putting too much pressure on them or too much stock in them? Do we recognize our loved ones as incredible God-made creatures, worthy of love, but chock full of human failings? Do we mistake our loved ones and our own hard work for God, thinking they can or should solve our problems? Do we, like Peter, James, and John, fail to recognize God is different even from those we love, even from our own abilities, even from the greatness that surrounds so many of our days?
Do we recognize that God is different, that God is present, that God is either beside us or carrying us all the way up every mountain? Do we recognize that, just as Jesus was transfigured that day so long ago, each of us can be transformed by recognizing our limitations, by recognizing that Jesus is our Savior and in Him our faith should belong?
Do we recognize the power God has to transform us on our mountaintop when we acknowledge Him?
Last Sunday’s Gospel showed us Jesus leading Peter, James, and John up the mountain to where they would meet Moses and Elijah and be awed by the power of Christ in the Transfiguration, but, even after the Heavens opened up and God the Father pronounced Jesus as His Son, did Peter, James, and John truly recognize the power Christ held? No. Those familiar with the event know that even then the apostles failed to truly recognize the superiority of Jesus. Knowing the closeness these three believers shared with our Lord compared to the distance we often feel should make us inspect our own ability to recognize God and inspect where we place our faith.
The Transfiguration must have been an amazing, word-defying event, and yet, even after that, the apostles did not fully recognize Jesus as the Lord that day on the mountaintop. Jesus walked beside them the entire time, just as He walks beside you. Do you recognize the Lord beside you in your journey or do you put others before Him? Are you open to the Lord’s ability to transform you when you acknowledge Him?
Other pieces relating to the Transfiguration: