“And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white” (Matthew 17:2).
What if people could see us for who we really are? What if all the veils, the masks, the fronts that we put up just suddenly fell away? Would people be shocked? Frightened? Amazed? Would they still like us? We often put on airs and make ourselves appear brighter, more brilliant, more scintillating than we really are. We can learn some valuable lessons from the Transfiguration of Jesus.
In the Gospel account of the Transfiguration, Jesus takes his closest friends–Peter, James, and John–with him to Mount Tabor. While they are in the mountain Jesus is transfigured before their eyes. For a moment, they see him for who he really is. He is God. His face shone like the sun and his clothes became dazzling white. He is attended by Moses and Elijah, the greatest prophets in the Old Testament. Then a voice comes from a bright cloud that says: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5). The apostles beheld the true face of Jesus, the face of God. When they heard the voice of God, they all fell prostrate on the ground with fear. Then Jesus, who had already returned to his ordinary countenance, touched them and said, “Get up and do not be afraid” (Matthew 17:7).
Jesus hides his true glory, his true power, his magnificence. He allowed himself to be seen in his glory only by his closest friends, and even then, he admonished them not to tell anyone. He did not reveal his glory to show off but to strengthen his apostles for his upcoming Passion when he knew that they would be scandalized by the cross. He shows them momentarily his divinity that they may remember and not despair when they see him crucified on the cross. Even today, Jesus hides his glory among us. He is in the Eucharist. He is in his Church, his mystical body. He is in the priest who administers the sacraments. He is in the Bible, the inspired word of God. He is in the people who show us kindness when we most need it or who have a word of wisdom that seems to answer our unspoken question. He allows himself to be treated with indifference, with disbelief, with irreverence. If we saw him for who he truly is, we would be dazzled and confused as his apostles were. We would not be able to withstand his light. For our sake, Jesus makes himself small and ordinary. How different we are from Jesus. We are always trying to make ourselves out to be bigger than we are.
But we do not need to put on masks to make ourselves more beautiful than we are. True beauty radiates from the inside out. If we are in Christ, if he is the master of our interior life, then we too, like Christ, are transfigured by the presence of God. And like Christ, may we also one day hear the voice of the Father that says of us, “This is my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased.”