Gospel Matthew 17:1-9
‘it is wonderful for us to be here…’
When reading through the Gospels I am often struck with the unabashed and child-like honesty of Peter.
Before us today is a story truly fantastic. Jesus takes aside three disciples – those three who for whatever reason are closest to him, and then is transfigured, taking on what could be considered angelic or divine features, appearing with characters from the Scriptures which they would have known so well.
Peter’s child-like response strikes me as almost comical. One can picture him, there with the others, who are notably (and perhaps most appropriately) silent in the presence of a majesty that is truly miraculous.
Instead of the silent reverence of the other two, Peter comes forward a blurts out, somewhat embarrassingly, how good it is to be there. He’s likely thinking of the others who were left behind, and who therefore are unable to witness these astounding events.
It is wonderful to be here.
As contemporary readers of passages such as this, we are often somewhat scandalised by the fact that Jesus chose specific people to witness such events, but not others. Zooming out somewhat, we can transpose that sense of scandal or even indignation to the fact of the Incarnation itself – why did God choose to become Incarnate in the person of Jesus in first century Palestine? Why did God single out Abraham and his descendants to be the chosen people?
These questions are not easily answered, but they give us good pause for thought.
Peter, we might say, was lucky – and he was given opportunities to talk with, walk with, and live with the person of Jesus. We might even be jealous of such experience, thinking ‘if only such opportunities were afforded me, then my belief (or lack thereof) would be firmer.
Instead, Peter exemplifies an appropriate attitude of child-like receptivity that we should all strive to emulate. Do I take advantage of the opportunities which have been given me to encounter Jesus bodily in the Church (cf. Rom 8), in the Sacraments, and in the poor, sick, or suffering.
Point to Ponder
“Christianity is a living truth which never can grow old. Some persons speak of it as if it were a thing of history, with only indirect bearing upon modern times; I cannot allow that it is a mere historical religion. Certainly it has its foundations in past and glorious memories, but its power is in the present.”
John Henry Newman, A Grammar of Assent (London: Longmans Green and Co., 1924), 487-8.