- Grant Demeter, '11
In today’s gospel, Jesus brings Peter, James, and John to a mountaintop. He is transfigured, exuding brilliant white light. Moses and Elijah appear next to him. Peter offers to pitch three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. God’s voice rings out from the clouds, telling the apostles that “’this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’” The Apostles are afraid, but Jesus steps forth and touches them, and they see only Him.
This Gospel story brings up an important point in our understanding of our faith. When Moses and Elijah appear next to Jesus, the Apostles view them as three separate entities. We know, however that the images are engendered from Jesus’ divine light. What the Apostles do not understand is they are all derived from the same person. In other words, the teachings of Moses and Elijah are all contained within Jesus. The figures do not represent three separate ideas or beliefs systems that need to be contained in three separate tents. They all lie within the massive prism of Jesus’ teachings. No tent is needed to protect Jesus and his teachings, in being enclosed they will not better withstand the blanching glare of the midday sun or the whipping cold of the night wind. Jesus and His teachings transcend and encompass those of all the prophets and martyrs before him. His teachings cannot be enclosed in a tent. They lie around and within all existence. His divine truth penetrates all of God’s creation, in light and dark.
Poor Peter really missed the point on this one with his tent idea. He is blinded to the truth by Jesus’ divine light. He is not able to truly fathom it yet. So God casts a shadow on the Apostles and speaks to them, more bluntly revealing what they failed to see. Jesus touches them, and they can see the truth. They see Jesus alone. Here is the truth, revealed in partial darkness. Let us interpret this within the context of this ancient symbolism: Sight is understanding, light is truth, darkness is ignorance. The truth is revealed under the gentle cloud cast above our consciousness. Here we are not blinded by the light that our imperfect eyes cannot fathom or handle. As imperfect and cracked humans, we exist within shades of darkness, of ignorance. The divine truth cannot be revealed to us all at once, only in subtle shades. We pick it up bit by bit in what we can see.
Sometimes it takes a little something extra for our eyes to adjust, or sometimes we must adjust in stages.
Today’s gospel helps us understand that Jesus exists within all God’s creation, that he transcends and encompasses other teachings. We are not able to see his brilliant truth all at once, we must find it in these teachings and in God’s creation.