Summer movies are out, blockbusters with lots of special effects to draw the young and old alike and to cash in on huge profits. In the light of such movies, our first reading today from the book of Daniel fits right in. It has a blazing throne, “wheels of burning fire,” “surging stream of fire” and a cast of “thousands and thousands,” with “myriads upon myriads” in attendance. There are visions to rivet one’s attention: one “like a Son of man” coming on clouds of heaven, the Ancient One whose “clothing was snow bright” and whose hair is “white as wool.” Don’t these images rival the current crop of summer blockbusters?
The Gospel keeps the spectacles flowing. We have a mysterious high mountain, the dazzling white clothes, the sudden appearance of Elijah and Moses, and then that really big voice from the cloud. All this adds up to make an engrossing spectacle and in mid-summer this shakes us awake lest we be lulled by the aroma of barbecues and the sound of the ocean as it beats to shore.
Like Peter on the mountain, the presence of a really good thing would make any one of us want to hold on to what we have. It’s easy not look beyond the moment, no further than our own fingertips, to stay comfortably where we are. “How good it is to be here.” There is a lot in our world to keep us self-focused and nearsighted.
We all experience moments of transfiguration. We all are tempted to exclaim: "How good it is for us to be here."
But reality is earthbound and everyday. Suffering and sacrifice are essential elements of discipleship. Just before they go up to the mountain, Jesus tells his disciples “If you wish to come after me, you must first deny your very self, take up your cross and follow in my steps.” And his steps are soon to take him into Jerusalem where he will face his cross. The difficult task of ministry awaits the disciples. Having now experienced a moment of transfiguration, it is no wonder they want to stay where life is cushy, comfortable and sure.
Walking down the mountain that day, I am sure the disciples glanced back over their shoulders at the place where things had been so clear for them.
We too look over our shoulders. When life’s “transfiguration moments” have ended, we glance back over our shoulders at a world torn apart by war and hatred, by polarizing ideaologies, and by human suffering, sickness and death. There’s a little bit of Peter in each of us, wanting to hold on those moments that feel so special and unending. There is nothing wrong in that as long as we remember that it isn’t just in the glory moments of life that God is present to us.
Summer comfort notwithstanding, we too have been transfigured and today we are challenged to transform our lives, to let the glory of God guide us and shine through us, to focus on God along the rough road of the our daily lives knowing that God is near, that He understands our pain, and that He will sustain us and carry us through. That's a pretty big "blockbuster," don't you think?