Today's Gospel recounts a pivotal moment: the Transfiguration of Jesus. Peter says, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here!" It is also a moment of awe, even terror. "They were terrified," says the Gospel.
Brant Pitre analyzes the Transfiguration in The Case for Jesus. Dr. Pitre asks, "Why do Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain with Jesus?" For sure Moses represents the Law and Elijah the Prophets. But there's more: Although Moses and Elijah both had visions of God neither saw God face to face. In the Transfiguration they are finally allowed to see what they could not see during their earthly life - the unveiled face of God." Light shines from within Jesus; he himself is light from light.
After giving a detailed description of the Transfiguration, Dr. Pitre asks why Jesus tells his disciples not to speak about what happened. Why the secrecy? Well, The Case for Jesus devotes a full chapter to the secret of Jesus' divinity.
I want, however, to address a prior issue, something that many wonder about - namely, the reliability of the Gospels. Some say that because the Gospels were transmitted orally before being written down they contain distortions as happens in the Telephone Game. You've probably played the Telephone Game: you form a circle with a dozen people and the first person whispers a phrase to next person. Maybe "red chicken." By the end the message has completely changed, "pink pumpkin." As the Case for Jesus points out, "the Telephone game 'works' precisely because it is a trivial parlor game and absolutely no one involved cares a whit about the content of the message that he is communicating. As a counterexample, consider the manner in which news of the Kennedy assassination spread from person to person, to all corners of the world. To be sure small distortions and exaggerations occurred along the way, but did anyone anywhere miss the message that the president of the United States, John Kennedy, was shot to death in Dallas on November 22, 1963?
Dr. Brant Pitre shows how the "Telephone game" comparison might sound convincing but when you analyze the actual way the Gospels were transmitted, it doesn't hold up. I encourage you to read The Case for Jesus and to offer it to a family member who has questions, for example about the "Lost Gospels" or about whether Jesus claimed be divine.
Ultimately of course we're talking about an act of confidence in a person, to be able to say, "Jesus, I trust in you." This brings us back to those pivotal moments - some are wonderful, some are devastating. For us February 4, 11:04 am, was a pivotal moment as Sister Barbara passed from this life surrounded by parishioners singing "Amazing Grace."
Regarding pivotal moments Fr. Sica says: "I've learned it doesn't matter what pivotal moment comes our way; our response determines whether it will make us or break us. Since everything is in turmoil, it's necessary to take baby steps. You need to wrap your head around it and ask. 'What just happened?' Then go to God. Have a heart-to-heart with him. Share your feelings, ask him for guidance and listen as he responds."
As our Psalm says, "I believe even when I said, 'I am greatly afflicted.' I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living." Amen.