Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Transfiguration Points to Supernatural Realm

The gospel reading at Mass this weekend is the Transfiguration of the Lord. Saint Peter, along with Saints James and John, had front row seats for this miraculous event. Scripture explains that Jesus “was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” (Hmm, that sounds like a Madison Avenue marketing campaign: “Try new TRANSFIGURE laundry detergent, and get your clothes ‘white as light!’”)

Then Moses and Elijah appeared, and started speaking with Jesus. Peter and the other two disciples were stunned and frightened.
Many decades after the Transfiguration, Peter referred to it in his second epistle as proof of Jesus’ divinity. He wrote, “We did not follow cleverly devised myths…but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. We ourselves heard [God’s] voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.”

It’s interested that Peter cited the Transfiguration as evidence of Jesus’ supernatural power. After all, Peter witnessed all kinds of miracles done by Jesus. He saw Jesus cure sick people, change water into wine, even raise the dead. Peter saw Jesus Himself walking around alive after having been crucified, and watched with his own eyes as Jesus ascended into Heaven. Surely, Peter witnessed many other miracles not recorded in the Bible, such as Jesus solving a Rubik’s Cube in three seconds and then juggling chainsaws without getting hurt.

And yet, when Peter wanted to demonstrate that he had personally witnessed the miraculous nature of Jesus’ life, he talked about the Transfiguration. It must have been quite a spectacular sight.

Now, of course, modern skeptics will say that Peter was, in fact, following “cleverly devised myths.” These folks are called materialists, which means they sincerely believe that supernatural events are, by definition, impossible. They claim all biblical references to miracles simply could not have happened. Unfortunately, materialism has become the predominant worldview in present-day America.
Materialists say that Peter was, at best, hallucinating when he witnessed the Transfiguration, or, at worst, lying through his teeth about it to manipulate gullible religious followers. There’s really no other choice. If supernatural events are, by definition, impossible, then the events described in this week’s gospel reading could not have occurred.

Peter knew there is nothing more important in life than having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Before someone can do that, of course, it is necessary to believe that God exists and that Jesus really is who He claimed to be (“the Word made flesh” and “the way, the truth, and the life”). One of the main reasons the Transfiguration occurred was to convince the apostles beyond a doubt that Jesus really is the divine Son of God. Later on, when they were trying to teach a skeptical world that the Gospel message is true, their sincerity and honesty and passion were obvious to all.

We who live today have not witnessed a spectacular Transfiguration. (Well, at least I haven’t personally, and I haven’t heard of anyone else claiming to have witnessed one.) But we have witnessed supernatural miracles: drunks suddenly becoming sober; thieves becoming honest; prostitutes becoming chaste; managers of Planned Parenthood clinics becoming pro-life activists—all through faith in Jesus Christ. These are miracles that can be explained only by the supernatural power of God.
We may not have witnessed a dazzlingly bright Transfiguration, like Peter did. But we have witnessed lives being transfigured and transformed. Peter used what he saw as evidence of the divinity of Christ. And we must use what we see as proof of God’s supernatural power when we share our faith with others.

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