It is Good for Us to Be Here: The Understatement of All Time

It is good for us to be here
Photo Fr. Boniface Hicks, OSB

It is good for us to be here…the understatement of all time.

Peter’s words, “It is good for us to be here…” evokes a smile at the massiveness of the understatement. But after reflecting on what it must have felt like to those three Apostles: Jesus tells them to come up to the mountain with Him, the smile fades into…awe, wonder and ineffable gratitude.

Had He extended such an invitation before?

Come up to the peak of Mount Tabor and pray with me.

Usually we read that Jesus went up to the mountains and prayed. Alone. Perhaps on this day then, they knew this would be special, maybe they were even excited.

But no human mind could have conceived of THAT,

nor can we… now.

Witnessing Christ’s body being glorified into a celestial brightness that could barely be viewed by human eyes.

The sight of Moses and Elijah standing on either side of Jesus-this man they’d been walking with, eating with…

We celebrate the Transfiguration of Christ twice each year: On the second Sunday of Lent and yesterday, August 6th.

Let’s break away from the intense heat of the weather, the politics and the yawning chasm which divides us from this world, and spend a few mintutes reflecting on this oh so familiar man—Saint Simon Peter.

To allow ourselves to think like this passionate guy, this man who frequently just acted—and then thought.

Jesus selects just three to go up to the mountain to pray with Him: Peter, James and John.

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John,
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them, 
and his clothes became dazzling white, 
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. 
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, 
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, 
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents: 
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; 
from the cloud came a voice, 
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves, 
questioning what rising from the dead meant

Peter claims our attention for it is only he who speaks.

Although I try, I cannot imagine what Peter was thinking when he heard The Voice:

This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, Listen to Him.

And when he saw with his own eyes, Moses and Elijah standing on either side of Jesus.

Clearly, Peter feels impelled to say something. Even though it probably sounded inane even to his own ears.

“Lord, it is good that we are here…let me build three tents, one for you, one for Elijah and one for Moses.”

Ever considered how and why we know so much about Peter?

His flaws and virtues?

On the one hand Peter has faith like none of the other eleven.

But on the other, he seems to lack even the barest knowledge about himself and his capabilities. And yet it was Peter who had the guts to ask the Lord to command him to come.

And Peter inadvertantly teaches us critical truths:

““It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?

The truths?

There are five of them, I think.

  • We start to drown when we take our eyes off Jesus.
  • Mere nanoseconds after doing something praiseworthy,we screw up. “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
  • You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
  • If we stay focused on Our Lord, we can do all things through Him.
  • And yet Jesus bothers to change his name from Simon to Peter; a name that means ‘rock.’

The Lord goes further. This patently flawed human receives the keys to the kingdom. He is told that the sins ‘he forgives will be forgiven in heaven.’

Doesn’t it feel like we are looking in a mirror when we ponder the Apostle Peter? Even, maybe especially, when Peter attempts to defend Jesus against His coming passion, crucifixtion and death?

He was just a man, of course he was thinking like one—an almost childlike combination of cowardice and heroism.

This Peter transfigured into the man who wrote this:

“This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven
while we were with him on the holy mountain.
Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. (Italics mine)
You will do well to be attentive to it,
as to a lamp shining in a dark place,
until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Peter became a man of hope.

But Peter’s isn’t the passive, wimpy, inert hope,

as in “I hope it rains” or “I hope my daughter gets married.”

Nope.

It’s the theological virtue of hope. The ability to see past through the “failure” of the crucifixtion and understand that the cross is the “battering ram” with which we are called to do battle on behalf of His church. Soldiers secure and confident of our “identity as beloved sons and daughters destined for glory.”

What does that mean? Theological virtue?

It emanates from Christ. At baptism, the virtues of hope, faith and charity are infused into our souls providing us with the armor needed to overcome fear.

The Catholic catechism describes the work and function of hope. It states: takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity. (CCC 1818)

There perhaps has been no time in modern history as the present where our personal holiness matters. We cannot delay in allowing God to transform us, to experience a sort of personal transfiguration. On our own, we can do nothing to bring down the forces of evil in our midst.

With God working through us all our efforts are supernaturalized, joined to Him.”

It is good for us to be here.

2 Comments

  1. Mary says:

    Love, love, love this! Who doesn’t identify with Peter? Struggles, failures, but always hope in the One who loves us and desires our salvation.

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