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Last week we read of Jesus challenging the status quo in society, the fear of the “other” who didn’t fit it, or behave according to tradition. Such fear led to an exclusivist vision of God who seemed to see creation not as children but as divided among friends and adversaries. We jump a few chapters to this seminal story in the gospel, located at its center point. The closest friends of Jesus see him for who is truly is, and are silenced in their desire to advise him, as he turns from traveling through the villages preaching to focus on the city of Jerusalem: capital of politics, theology, culture and Jewish identity.
This story is commonly called “The transfiguration [of Jesus].” In the other gospels, the Greek word for transformation (“metamorphothe” from where comes our English word of metamorphosis) is used to describe Jesus on the mountaintop. It’s a radical change and shift, an event that transforms those who go through it. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures we see that the Hebrew people concerned mountaintops to be holy or sacred spaces upon which God had at times been encountered. Here the disciples don’t know what to do. The voice from the heavens points us back to the voice which thundered at the baptism of Jesus in Luke 3:22. It underlies the text affirms that Jesus changes, becomes “other” while still being the same.
Come down from that mountaintop experience, we witness the disciples unable to exorcise an evil spirit. That expression can also be translated as an unholy spirit, or a breath contrary to the breath of God breathed into humanity at creation. Once again it’s in prayer that Jesus becomes, or is witnessed to be, “other” : able to do what no one else can.
As I read the story I’m struck by the yeses of God and the nos of the world. The disciples are terrified, not wanting to leave the mountaintop. The voice of God tells them to listen, obey, to follow. Later the other disciples and crowd say that healing this boy is impossible, perhaps not wanted, that the child is helpless or unworthy of healing. God say yes to the father through Jesus. In our world we often are told no – in terms of freedom, possibility, our identity, God’s call for us and touch upon us. Jesus is the divine yes – encouraging, empowering, liberating, redeeming us.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation
Download and study the text of Luke 9:28-45 with more comments HERE.