This feast day is forever etched in my mind as the day on which I and forty-nine other postulants began our investiture retreat. It was actually supposed to start on August 5, but the friar who had been asked to preach the retreat got stalled in an airport by a cancelled flight. So our novice master had gathered us in the chapel on that evening and asked us to begin our retreat by becoming silent so that we could better hear the words of the retreat master when he did arrive on the morning of August 6.
He probably didn’t realize at the time, or maybe he did, that asking us to enter into the silence of the retreat would make such a strong impression on me. In the Gospel for today’s feast, the evangelist writes: While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him” (Luke 9:35b). Here I am some forty-seven years later still trying to listen. Luke’s Gospel also makes a point of telling us that the Transfiguration happened while James, Peter, John and Jesus had gone up on the mountain to pray. Listening to God is, after all, part of prayer.
Our ancestors in faith perceived the human person in three body zones symbolically interpreted. The zone of heart-eyes symbolized emotion-fused thinking. The zone of mouth-ears symbolized self-expressive speech. The zone of hands-feet symbolized purposeful activity. According to their mindset when all three zones are in harmony with one another, then the human being is at his or her best. When our mouths and ears are attuned to our heart and eyes, then our hands and feet can best effect worthwhile activity in our sphere or environment. The voice from heaven asks us to listen so that we can proclaim. It asks us to reflect on the words with both our hearts and our minds so that we can then work purposefully for the Kingdom of God.
When we accomplish what the Gospel asks of us, we continue the mystery of the Transfiguration. For while this event foreshadows the glory which Jesus will experience after His Passion, Death and Resurrection, the feast also asks us to “transfigure” or transform our world with the power of the Gospel.
I suspect that most of us can identify with Peter’s desires today. How wonderful it would be to simply bask in the reflected glory of the Lord, to sit before the Moses, Elijah and Jesus and simply enjoy their presence. However, Jesus taps us on the shoulder just as I am sure he did Peter’s shoulder and says: “OK. Let’s be about the Father’s work. We have seen what is in store for us. Now let us respond by letting the rest of the world know what God has in store for those who love Him.”
Purposeful activity for the sake of the Gospel is really the fruit of our listening!
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator