Reflection by: Andrew Remick - Associate Program Director, ACE Leadership Programs
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”
[F]rom the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration, which we hear this Second Sunday of Lent, is an astounding and miraculous milestone in Jesus’ life. In the presence of three of his disciples, Peter, James, and John, Jesus’ heavenly glory is revealed, and they witness Him speaking with Moses and Elijah, demonstrating how Jesus fulfills the tradition of the law and prophets. It is a moment in the Gospels rich with imagery and symbolism, but admittedly it is also one with which I find it difficult to connect. How does this revelation of Jesus’ divinity on a mountaintop relate to my daily call to discipleship?
As I encounter this story anew, I find myself drawn to the words that Peter, the Voice of the Father, and Jesus speak rather than the description of the events. After Jesus is transfigured, revealing His dazzling glory, Peter says “Lord, it is good that we are here.” Peter extols being present in that moment of revelation. In my day-to-day routine, my focus is too often on what’s coming up next, so that I lose sight of the goodness in front of me. This frequently extends into my prayer life. I can find it difficult to intentionally set aside time to be in God’s presence through prayer. Peter’s recognition of the goodness of being present in the moment encourages me to be more attentive to what is occurring presently in my life in prayer. Lent is an ideal time to retune our prayer lives, as prayer is one of the three spiritual disciplines that the Church highlights during this season of preparation.
Although it can seem rather obvious, the Father’s instruction to “listen to Him” after identifying Jesus as His Beloved Son, serves as a good reminder that silence and openness is a vital part of prayer if we want to hear what God is saying to us. In prayer, it is easy for me to rattle off my requests and thanks, kind of like leaving God a spiritual voicemail message. What’s not so easy is paying attention to the other side of the conversation and listening to Jesus’ guidance and responding to what the Creator asks of, and gives to, me in prayer.
Which brings me to the final quote from Matthew’s account that resonates with me– “Rise, and do not be afraid”–which Jesus says to Peter, James, and John after they fall to the ground upon hearing the Father’s voice from the cloud. Perhaps it is fear of the unknown or wanting to avoid potential challenges that keep me from listening as I pray. By encouraging His disciples to be not afraid, Jesus reassures them at this startling moment. Furthermore, they are familiar words to us, as we hear them at significant moments throughout Scripture, such as the Annunciation, the Nativity, and in Luke’s account of the calling of Peter—all moments that carry the awe and the risk of the call to Christian discipleship. While I know that Jesus’ invitation to follow Him is not meant to be frightening—but life-giving—I nevertheless find the words “Be not afraid” heartening and they inspire me to respond boldly to God’s call.