Homily for the Feast of the Transfiguration– Sunday 6th August 2017; DGC
St. Matthew tells us that Jesus takes his three closest associates, Peter, James and John, to a high mountain, “apart”. St. Mark uses the same word, but St. Luke omits the detail.
For the evangelists, this word “apart” is associated with a certain intimacy, a certain withdrawal. Luke, with his particular emphasis on and interest in prayer, tells us that Jesus took the disciples up the mountain to pray – to intimacy with the Father, just as in Gethsemane he goes apart for greater intimacy.
So if we want to share greater intimacy with Jesus, with the Father, we too need to go apart. That can be one of the attractions of walking in the mountains, on the hill-tops; of being, on the tops, apart from all but God.
That is one of the purposes of our 1230 Pilgrimage: to give people a chance to go apart, to make time and space to be with God, for him to speak to their hearts. It’s why we have retreats and recollection days, to make space for God.
Of course, the initiative is not ours, but God’s, and so he will invite us to go apart, go aside, to leave our daily concerns and give ourselves and our time to him. Just as in such contexts in the Gospel Jesus explains things to his disciples, so in peace and prayer can he make things clearer to us. “Listen to my beloved Son”, says the Father.
Sometimes, of course, all that happens is that we get bored and fall asleep, like the disciples in Gethsemane. But at other times we experience how good it is to be with the Lord. We’d like to build shelters and stay there forever.
Yes, that would be good, and just as the foretaste of the glory of God unveiled, experienced by the Apostles, would one day be theirs forever, so it will be for us.
But first we have to accompany the Lord, climb the mountain with him, come down again with him to the hum-drum of every day, and follow him on another climb, up Calvary. Not such a pleasant prospect…
But that’s why we have today’s feast, to energise and motivate us for the journey ahead, to the goal, where we will forever acclaim, “It is good for us to be here.”