In today’s Gospel we hear a story of an astonishing transformation known as the Transfiguration. As a kid, I would often wonder what that meant, and I figured it only happened to Jesus. It almost felt as if my eyes would hurt from the “dazzling white” of Jesus’ clothes, which apparently transfigured with him.
As an adult I have been blessed to know a few life-changing experiences. In reality, most of life is nothing like that, ordinary days sometimes punctuated by a startling and heart-churning happening. One such moment for me was not a moment, but was rolled out in slow motion, very slow motion.
For 35 days in 2016 I walked the Camino de Santiago, the Way of Saint James – that same James from the Gospel, an ancient pilgrimage route. There were many moments of climbing mountains as I traversed the Pyrenees mountains of France, making my way into and across the north of Spain. For over 500 miles my old and overweight body, accompanied by a 16-pound backpack slogged about 15 miles per day. Mountain top or valley, forest or flat, I did not see dazzling white clothes, anyone who might be taken for Moses or Elijah. Certainly, there were clouds, often dark ones, but no voices emerged from them commenting on Jesus.
Seeing Jesus, and seeing Jesus transfigured happened more often than I realized at the time. In our daily pilgrimage, across landscapes that varied, the shock of transfiguration was moving in its own holy time. Looking back, I saw Jesus everywhere, often in ways that made clear who he was and who he is, with God reminding me to “listen to him.”
Sometimes we get tricked into wanting the knockout experience on top of the mountain, but like Peter, John, and James, we get tripped up. We see action and we want – even with the best of intentions, opportunity. Let’s mark the spot, let’s build booths! What might be the contemporary expression? Maybe “Let’s Instagram this!” Like them, we do not know what we are saying.
God reminds us, Christ calls us – we must follow and listen to him. Like the Camino, which I can only see in retrospect, we see Christ transfigured and as such, we must listen and be transformed with him. It’s not a moment to be commemorated in material ways, but rather an invitation deeper into our own pilgrimage with Christ.