The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
August 6, 2023 –Transfiguration of the Lord- Matthew 17:1-9
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The account of the transfiguration of Jesus is one of the more challenging episodes recorded in the gospels. Its inclusion in the gospels suggests its importance, although its precise significance can be somewhat elusive. Here’s what I think is worth some thought on our part by reflecting on the experienced of a transfigured Jesus on the mountain with his closest disciples.
One of the most respected American psychologists was Abraham Maslow, born the same year as my parents, 1908. He wanted to make available insights from his research to assist ordinary people make their lives healthier and more vital. He was especially interested in the life experience of mentally healthy people.
In his writings he described the importance of what he called “peak experiences.” These were momentary events that were more intense than ordinary day-to-day living. During such moments people felt more alive and more alert to aspects of life that were never experienced before. He said that we should value such experiences that teach us about part of the deeper truths of human existence.
These peak moments might arise when we are overwhelmed by the beauty of nature, the love and affection of others or the very mystery of life itself. It’s like the clouds overhead opened and we beheld creation and ourselves in a new way. Such experiences, Maslow noted, could deeply change us. While usually fleeting, they could affect us for the rest of our lives.
Perhaps what happened to the three disciples of Jesus, Peter, James and John, was a peak moment that transformed them on that mountain top. Having lived among mountains for most of my life, I can affirm both the symbolism and significance of such events.
But there is more to the gospel story, and to our lives, than simply those special “peak” moments. First, we must accept the fact that they are usually momentary. Like the disciples of Jesus, we too must come back down to earth. Second, they are not to be forgotten for they inform us about dimensions of life that are very real. And last, we do well to accept the reality often our daily life is hard and filled with challenges. But we can face them knowing that they’re more to life than a daily cross. There is God’s promise to us of resurrection. A reality briefly shown to his disciples on that mountain top.