Do you remember when you first felt an undeniable prompt that called you to pursue a goal or an activity? I wonder how many of us know when we have heard and responded to God's voice. While talk of "a calling" is common among clergy, we don’t necessarily consider that we’re called to a career or vocation or volunteering. But, why not? I raise this question because I think that this is part of the Transfiguration story (Matthew 17:1-9) that gets overlooked. Let’s face it, we understandably focus on Jesus’ transformation, what with the blazing face, and dazzling white clothes and all. But I think that Peter gets transfigured as well, or at least the event may signal the beginning of Peter's transformation.
The scene moves very quickly. Here’s Peter falling all over himself looking for something to do when a voice from heaven literally interrupts him, and in essence says, "Would you please shut up already, and just listen to him!" In fairness to Peter, it is kind of terrifying as he falls to the ground, likely covering his ears and shielding his eyes. And then it's over -- the voice, the light, the heroes of the past -- nothing is left except Jesus, who reaches out to him, James and John, and calms their fears, and asks them to get up.
In that moment everything for Peter, I suspect, was still...and clear...and made sense. But we know it didn't last very long. On the way down the mountain Jesus once again had to remind Peter of his impending death and destiny and while Peter struggles to listen, to follow, and to be faithful, he will fail. My guess is that each time Peter “fell down,” he would look back on this day and recall those words, "Just listen to him!"
Perhaps Peter's transfiguration begins when he repeatedly fails, falls, and is lifted up again and realizes that above and beyond everything else, he is called to listen to Jesus. Isn’t this the pattern that shapes the lives of every Christian? We too try our best and sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. We, too, have moments of insight and moments of denial. We, too, fall down in fear and are raised up again to go forth in confidence. We are called to listen, to discern God's will and in this way be transformed. Don’t we identify with Peter? Don’t we see ourselves in this story? This story is as much about Peter and Jesus as it is about us. We, too, have been called both to "listen to him" and to "be lifted up"? We too, are called, but I wonder if we sometimes even recognize his voice.
Our transformation is what I think we've been working on these past few weeks: we are being called to be salt to the earth, light to the world, disciples of Jesus and to be the people of God.
“There have been quite a few times when I have felt the winds of God’s grace in the sails of my small boat. Sometimes these graces have moved me in pleasant and sunlit directions. At other times the requested acts of love were born in the darkness of struggle and suffering. There have been spring times and there have been long cold winters of struggle for survival. God has come to me at times with the purest kindness, at times with the most affirming encouragement, and at other times with bold frightening challenges. I think that all of us have to watch and pray, to be ready to say “yes” when God’s language is concrete and his request is specific-“yes” in the sunlit spring times and “yes’ in the darkness of winter nights.” (John Powell, S.J., The Christian Vision, The Truth That Sets Us Free, p147)