On this upcoming second Sunday of Lent the Church recalls this wondrous event telling the story of how Jesus appeared to them in all His glory, revealed to them as the Son of God, accompanied by Moses and Elijah. (Mt. 17:1-9)
I'm sure that the ordinary person in the pew might listen to this account and think that this indeed must have been a wonderful moment, but what does it have to do with us. How does it apply to our lives? Let's try to answer that question
The experience was such a wonderful event that Peter wants to stay there and build three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, one for Elijah. The response to that request is interesting. The Father speaks from a cloud and says, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him." Since Jesus has not spoken to them since they arrived at the top of the mountain we might ask, "What are we to listen to?" Of course we are to listen to the entire message of Jesus but in particular we need to be aware that just prior to coming up the mountain Jesus has told the disciples two things that they didn't want to hear--first that He Himself had to go to Jerusalem and suffer (see Mt. 16,21), and second that whoever wishes to follow Him must take up the cross everyday, and follow him. (see Mt. 16, 24ff.) These word were hard to hear for the twelve and they are hard to hear for us. We prefer a God who does not suffer and who removes us from our suffering. Jesus, in being transfigured before them is comforting and strengthening them for what is to come. The transfiguration is such a wonderful moment that they want to stay on top of the mountain. They don't want to descend and follow Jesus to the cross.
We are like those disciples. We want often seek religious experience that makes us feel good, moments, if you will, of transfiguration. It may be a beautifully celebrated Mass, a retreat, a private moment of prayer. All of these are beautiful. They are indeed moments of transfiguration if we encounter the Lord in them. They are not, however, meant to be moments of escape, but rather moments of comfort. strength and challenge that launch us back into our everyday lives, ready to take up our crosses, not for the sake of suffering as an end in itself, but believing that through the Cross we will also find resurrection. That is why Jesus instructs them not to tell anyone about this until the Son of Man rises from the dead.