This week we celebrate the Transfiguration of our Lord and Savior before we head into Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. Some might think that such an arrangment makes little sense. We go from the height of the mountaintop experience immediately into the bleak and dismal experience of the valley wilderness. We go from the glory and radiance of His Transfiguration to the sackcloth and ashes of our penitence. What were thinking when we devised this liturgical occurence?
As I shared yesterday, the Transfiguration ought to comfort us and the Transfiguration ought to challenge us. When we read the story, we notice that Moses the lawmaker and Elijah the prophet both appear with Jesus. When God speaks that "this is My Son, the beloved, in Him I am well pleased; listen to Him," we cannot help but notice that Moses and Elijah fade. For those of us who wonder whether Jesus was serious when He says that the prophet and the law were about Him, we are given a wonderful sign by God. The lawgiver and the prophet fade before the Light that has come into the world. God is confirming for the witnesses and us that Jesus is the one to whom salvation history has pointed since the dawn of time. Isaiah's prophecies of a glorious Messiah and a suffering servant converge in the work and person of Jesus Christ. We ought to take comfort knowing that the Messiah will rule as God intended; and we ought to be comforted by the fact that Jesus loved each of us and serve each of us that we might be reconciled to God through His death and resurrection.
Of course, we are not left standing on the mountain. Jesus leads His disciples and us back down the mountain and to His certain fate. Jesus, as a fully human being, has just had God confirm for Him that the way to the glory of God is through the suffering of the cross. We will see Jesus wrestle with this seeming conundrum most poignantly in the garden of Gethsemene, but for a time Jesus can know with certainty that God will redeem His cross. Good Friday will be followed by the Easter morning! We should be challenged by this story knowing that God calls all His sons and daughters to servanthood. We ought to be challenged by this story knowing that Jesus will tell His disciples to pick up their crosses and follow Him.
Yet, how many of us look for the easy way out rather than for God's use of whatever cross we are bearing? How many of us forget that our road to glory is often full of various crosses? When we are beset with financial problems, soured relationships, obnoxious coworkers or students, various temptations, or whatever it is that we fill is too much to bear, we ought to be reminded of the promise of the Transfiguration. God takes the suffering of all His faithful sons and daughters and uses it for His glory! We may not know the how; we may not, like Job, know the why; but like Jesus we can trust that He will redeem whatever cross He has given us. If He can redeem the suffering of Jesus' cross and turn it into Easter, imagine what He can do with our crosses? The fact is, when we face the trials of our lives with the expectant comfort and challenge of the Transfiguration, it may just be us who are transfigured before those whom we are called to witness and serve.