Transfigured or transformed?

Even though I wasn't a fan of praying the rosary at the time, I loved it when St. John Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries to the repertoire. In my view, they gave some much-deserved (and much-needed) attention to events in the life of Christ that often fall beneath the radar. The Baptism of the Lord, the wedding at Cana, and the Transfiguration, to be specific.

I've been amazed by the biblical accounts of the Transfiguration since forever. The story captured my imagination -- especially as presented in the 10 volume children's Bible published by the Seventh Day Adventists I read almost every day for years. Jesus goes up the mountain with his closest disciples: Peter, James, and John. There, his appearance changes completely. His face shines like the sun; his clothes become "dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them" (Mark 9:3). Moses and Elijah appear, and a conversation between them and Jesus ensues. Peter suggests that they build three tents and camp there for a while. Then, the voice of the Father speaks from an overshadowing cloud: "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him" (Mark 9:7). Suddenly, the great figures of the past are gone, and only Jesus -- no longer radiant in glory -- remains there with them.

It's a strange story, to be sure. And it becomes even stranger when Jesus instructs the three disciples who witnessed all this not to tell anyone what they had seen until after he had risen from the dead. At that point, Peter, James, and John didn't even know what Jesus meant by "rising from the dead."

The Transfiguration must have been extraordinarily powerful; the incident is recorded in all three synoptic Gospels. Ironically, however, it is not told by John -- the only Gospel writer who was reportedly there to experience it. Of course, the event did not occur in order to create a memorable special effect for three terrified disciples but to reveal who Jesus really is -- the beloved only Son of God.

The Transfiguration teaches us that there's a big difference between what things look like and what they are, and that we can't always tell the difference. What looks powerful and wondrous may be nothing but trickery, while things that seem completely ordinary may be full of unimaginable mystery. It's important to note that the appearance of Jesus changed, but he did not. What the disciples glimpsed on the mountain top had been there all along. The glory of God is not diminished, even when it is hidden. Even when God "empties himself" (Phil 2:7).

Christ was transfigured, not transformed. His is the same "yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb 13:8). We are the ones who need transformation. The problem is that we often prefer to focus on appearance. We spend an inordinate amount of time managing how we look and not nearly enough time in the presence of the God who can -- and will -- change us in time if we allow him to do so. We realize this usually only when the veil of appearance is lifted on us; when we finally see who we really are (and aren't).

Thankfully, our God is all about bringing about transformation in and through us. Whatever you have been struggling with -- even for all your life -- can be transformed. Anger, addiction, fear, anxiety: God wants to free us from all our sins, from all that binds us. And only he can.

God gives us his grace for the sake of bringing us into his glory. Sometimes, we need a revelation to lift us up, to keep us going, to move us forward. We can find it on the mountaintop with Peter, James, and John. We can encounter Christ Jesus as he is in prayer. Especially when we pray to be changed and transformed -- especially when we ask him to do for us and in us what we have come to know we cannot do in or for ourselves.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and provides freelance editorial services to numerous publishers and authors as the principal of One More Basket. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.