Our ability to be vulnerable to others can often be the door that lets them see us as we really are. It can be the pathway that leads to greater friendship, intimacy and personal transfiguration.
Some years ago an individual in his late 30s whom I came to know over the years, though not well, greeted me after Sunday morning mass. Something inside me - perhaps a pastoral sense developed over the years - was telling me, “there’s something wrong here.” I asked him if he was alright and he hesitated for a moment. Then he spoke quietly and said that two days before he had been diagnosed with a potentially life threatening medical condition. Surgery was to take place in just a few days to arrest the progress of the condition as well as determine the possible extent of the disease. Coming over to my office, he spent the next half hour letting down the inevitable guard that so many of us project in the course of any day, as he shared with me his fears and anxieties, his worries for his wife and children, and his own wrestling with the unexpected face of mortality. Through tears as well as laughter, we both came to realize that in our mutually hectic lives we had failed to take the time to realize how much we meant to one another. We discovered that our acquaintanceship was really a friendship of mutual respect and admiration that just never found the time to be spoken or celebrated. This moment of crisis became also for us a time to discover something wonderful about ourselves and one another. Thanks be to God, the surgery was a success, the prognosis for complete recovery excellent, and a friendship continued to grow.
My friends, our Gospel story today of the Transfiguration, is not unlike the countless graced moments you are I are privileged to experience in the course of our lives. Graced moments that can give us a glimpse of a reality that carries us through the difficulties and challenges, the heartaches and moments of darkness that will inevitably mark our lives. For Peter, James and John - intimate friends of Jesus - their graced moment came on that mountain top when Jesus revealed to them another dimension of himself that would mark their lives forever and carry them through the dark moments that were ahead. They had come to know him as Rabbi, Master and Teacher. But now, away from the busyness of their everyday lives, alone with him on the mountain top, he revealed his deepest identity to them. They glimpsed the glory of the anointed one foretold by the prophets and longed for by the people of the covenant. This moment of vulnerability when Jesus revealed his deepest identity to his friends would carry them through the dark valley of the days that were before them in Jerusalem to the glory of the Resurrection.
My brothers and sisters, each of us holds the potential of revealing the face of God to one another. More often than not, however, the work of personal transfiguration is not realized in some idyllic spiritual setting but rather in the midst of the messiness of our everyday lives. More often than not, our opportunity to reveal the face of God to others is celebrated in moments of forgiveness between a husband and wife; in the care and devotion given to a sick child; in the tough love that a father or mother may give to a teenage son or daughter; in the quiet bedside companionship given to a dying parent ; in the risks we take to move from acquaintanceships to friendships, in our vulnerability to love and be loved by others.
May our Lenten journey give us the courage to look for and celebrate the countless graced moments of transfiguration that are before us each day. And in them, may we come to know the presence of God in our lives.