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…” make me smile at the massiveness of the understatement. I reflect on what it must have felt like to those three Apostles. Jesus tells them to come up to the mountain with Him. After a nanosecond, 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 then, they knew this would be special, maybe they were even excited.

But no human mind could have conceived of THAT, not can we… now.

Witnessing Christ’s body be glorified into a celestial brightness that could barely be viewed by human eyes. The sight of Moses and Elijah standing next to Jesus-this man they walked with, ate with…

Only this past week have I taken time to be thankful for the fact that we celebrate the Transfiguration of Christ twice each year: On the second Sunday of Lent and on August 6th. I am not aware of another solemn day in the Christian liturgy that is celebrated twice, but is there one more fitting than His Transfiguration?

To consider not just His Transfiguration but our own. “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing but I call you friends, for all things I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you.”

This is my Son whom I have chosen, Listen to Him.

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 draws our attention for it is 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.

Clearly, Peter feels impelled to say something. Even though it probably sounded inane 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. Peter had the guts to ask the Lord to command him to come. Until… he looked away from the face he adored and realized that he was committing an impossible feat: walking on water.

Most likely, Peter was among those incapable of exorcizing the boy:

“O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you? 
Bring the boy here to me.

“Why could we not drive it out?”
He said to them, “Because of your little faith.
Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Peter and all the Apostles reveal the inimical effects of fear. Over and over and over. Making them capable of anything from the noblest to the most craven of acts. And it seems that even Peter cannot predict how he will act. Precisely like us.

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?

“Jesus was no cold Superman, ” Guardini writes, ” he was more human than any of us. Entirely pure, unweakened by evil, he was open and loving to the core. His ardor, truth, sensitivity, power, capacity for joy and pain were unlimited, and everything that happened to him happened in the immeasurableness of his divinity. What then must have been Jesus’ suffering!…

…” Jesus’ will to the Passion is not to be broken, but at the thought of it, his whole frame shudders in the grip of unspeakable pain. We feel it in his furious reply to Peter, when the disciple, well meaning but puny of heart, tries to dissuade him…”The will to sacrifice stands fast but it has been torn from Jesus’ human nature and is throbbingly sensitive; he can bear no tampering with it.”

Is there a “so what” for us?

Yes, I think so. Can we perceive Peter as a teacher? One who knows his own will can’t be trusted and that his heart holds evil.

Yet 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.”

A man who learned to trust. Not in himself, never. In Jesus, wholly, unreservedly.

Beyond reason.

Of course, beyond reason!

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.”

2 Comments

  1. Joanne Rencher says:

    Peter, along with many other ‘noble’ and ‘craven’ persons in the bible, gives me such hope. The kind of hope which convinces me that God can use me. In all of my inconsistencies, hypocrisy, self-doubt and failings….God is. God is love and He’s given his only Son as the most beautiful demonstration of love, forgiveness and restoration.

    • Lin Wilder says:

      Hi Joanne!
      Amen, Amen. Thank you for your (as always) insightful comment, for taking the time to share it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *