A New Zealand beekeeper named Edmund Hillary and a Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, were the first ever to reach Everest’s summit in 1953. The unreachable, fearsome, deadly mountain had defeated 15 previous expeditions. But finally, we see the “mountaintop experience” of two people. The mountaintop experience of which we read in today’s Gospel a moment ago has Jesus and His three closest Apostles – Peter, James, and John – going up on a high mountain where they experience the miraculous Transfiguration undergone by Jesus, making His Heavenly glory visible to His disciples.
Jesus is revealed as a glorious figure, superior to Moses and Elijah. The primary purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration was to consult with his Heavenly Father in order to determine His plan for Our Lord’s suffering, death and Resurrection.
The secondary aim was to make Jesus’ chosen disciples aware of His Divine glory, so that they might remove their worldly ambitions about a successful political Messiah. A third purpose was to strengthen their Faith and Hope and to encourage them to persevere through the future suffering.
The comedian Yakov Smirnoff when he first came to the United States from Russia, he was not prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores. He says, “On my first shopping trip, I saw milk powder; you just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw orange powder; you just add water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, ‘What a country!’
Smirnoff was joking, but we make these assumptions about Christian Transformation—that people change instantly from sinners to saints. Catholics call it transformation through repentance and renewal of life, deriving strength through the word of God and the Sacraments to cooperate with God’s grace for doing acts of charity.
Some other Christian denominations call it Sanctification of the believer. Whatever you call it, most denominations expect some quick fix for sin. According to this belief, when someone gives his or her life to Christ, accepting Him as Lord and personal Savior, and confesses his or her sins to Him, there comes an immediate, miraculous change in habits, attitudes, and character.
Disciples of Christ are not born by adding water to Christian powder. There is no such powder, and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born. They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations and by their active cooperation with the grace of God, expressed through works of charity.
In each Holy Mass our offering of bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus under the appearances of bread and wine. Hence, just as Jesus’ Transfiguration strengthened the Apostles in their time of trial, each Holy Mass should be our source of Heavenly strength against our own temptations and our source for the renewal of our lives during Lent
Each Sacrament that we receive transforms us. Baptism transforms us into sons and daughters of God and heirs of heaven. Confirmation makes us the temples of the Holy Spirit. By the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God brings back the sinner to the path of holiness. By receiving in Faith, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, we are spiritually, and, if God wills, physically, healed and our sins are forgiven.
We need ‘mountain-top’ experiences in our own lives. We can share experiences like those of Peter, James and John when we spend some extra time in prayer during Lent. In moments of doubt, pain and suffering, disappointment and despair, we need mountain-top experiences to reach out to God and listen to His consoling words: “This is my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased.” Our ‘Lenten penance’ will lead us to the ‘Easter joy.’