Last weekend Maria and I had the incredible opportunity to lead an Alpha retreat for 200 people from two separate local parishes. Words can't describe it adequately. It was one of those "You just had to be there" experiences. At the end of the retreat I was making some closing comments and I mentioned that this was a mountaintop experience. This week's Gospel is just such an experience for three of the disciples.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 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 beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and do not be afraid." And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, "Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." Matthew 17:1-9
Matthew's description of Peter's response is surely muted. His description of Jesus is not. Notice the words he uses to describe Jesus, transfigured, face shone like the sun, clothes became white as light. On top of all that two of the greatest figures in the Jewish history appear beside Jesus. And they've both been dead for centuries!!! This is not just your everyday gathering. This is one of those "You just had to be there" moments, right?
THEN, GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY SPEAKS FROM HEAVEN!!!!
This is more than the disciples can handle and they fall to the ground. They were so afraid that Jesus needed to comfort them. As the original party of four descends the mountain Jesus commands the disciples not to share what they had seen until after His resurrection.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME LORD?!? I can imagine something like that going through the minds of Peter, James and John. I can't even fathom the looks on their faces! Everything has changed! The disciples will never be the same again. This was simply indescribable. So what is this mountaintop experience supposed to mean to us?
This past weekend on the retreat, we experienced the Lord's presence in powerful ways. It really was a mountaintop experience for us. And I am sure many people were changed. However, the meaning of the mountaintop is that God never changes! We simply get to know Him better. He gives us glimpses of His glory. We experience his forgiving mercy. We feel His infinite love. But none of this happens until after Jesus' resurrection. Our hearts need to be resurrected in Him. Then we can come down from the mountain and share what we know with others. Glory to God!