This weekend was the Transfiguration. During Mass, our gospel reading retold the time Jesus was transfigured in front of Peter, James and John on the top of a mountain. I’d already discussed the passage at my weekly bible study, which made hearing it on Saturday all the more fruitful.
When Peter, John and James arrive at the top of the mountain, Elijah and Moses appear. At that point Peter starts babbling, “Lord, it is good you have brought us here. If you wish, I will put up three tents—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he’s rambling, a strong voice breaks through the clouds, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” When the three look around again, Jesus is the only one there. After the incident, Jesus tells them not to say a word until he’s crucified and resurrected from the dead.
“Listen to Jesus and follow him. That’s the message of the Transfiguration.” – Pope Francis
Peter has a relatable trait in this passage. Instead of allowing himself to be in awe and trust God, he immediately tries to control the situation by asking to assemble three tents. We often plan our lives, foolishly believing we know what’s to come. Instead of slowing down and listening to God, we rush to fill in the gaps. When Peter tries to take control, God puts his fatherly foot down and tells him to “be quiet and listen.” If only he could say that so blatantly to the rest of us.
After the gospel, our priest put the passage into relatable terms. He spoke on the concept of transfiguration and how to get there we first go through disfiguration, or to speak plainly: to achieve desired change, we first go through resistance/suffering. If you want to be stronger, you add resistance to your arms by lifting weights. If we want to become better, we should embrace the struggle in our life – knowing well that God does not give us more suffering than we can endure.
Our priest talked about the harm in interfering during disfiguration. He told us the story of a young boy who learned about butterflies. He brought home a cocoon, so he could watch the transformation. When the cocoon started to wiggle, he cut it open to help the butterfly emerge faster. When he did this, he found a deformed butterfly. What the boy didn’t know is that without the struggle, the butterfly didn’t have a chance to develop its wings.
Transitioning from disfiguration to transfiguration takes time, and the period of disfiguration varies from person to person. Struggle ranges and so do the people who deal with it. It is in our best interest to learn from Peter – forfeit control and listen to the One who holds us in the palm of his hand. Embrace the suffering he gives us and allow it to transform us into better people when the time comes.