I’m sure many of you have witnessed mute people communicating with one another. Ray, one of the men who was ordained a Permanent Deacon at the same time I was back in 2000, could not speak, was mute, and so was his wife, Susan. It was fascinating to watch the two of them talk to one another and as well to their daughter who was not mute and in addition could speak to them in sign language even when they were clear across from one another in the classroom. Their hands danced in sign language as they projected their message to one another in soundless animation. What they were saying to one another was perfectly clear to them but the rest of us were clueless. What a great part of human communicating with one another is. In contrast to other animals we don’t just desire information but we, as human beings we want to communicate real meaning, you might say, stay in tune with them.
In the passages in Mark’s Gospel proceeding today’s readings, Jesus had been communicating with his words and as well with his actions such as healing the sick, expelling demons, multiplying loaves and fishes, silencing a raging storm and walking on water. You would have thought it would be clear to his disciples just who Jesus was, but to a high degree they were all but clueless who he was. They had not tuned in to what Jesus was communicating. They were almost as clueless as those of us who were in the classroom with Ray, Susan and their daughter.
We saw their signing but we didn’t understand.
In today’s gospel reading we hear the story of Jesus taking Peter, James and John, the three disciples who really thought they had a good understanding of Jesus, up a high mountain just as we read in the Book of Exodus, the account where Moses took Aaron, Nadab and Abihu up a high mountain. Moses talked directly with God and received the Ten Commandments. When Jesus and his disciples reached the summit, Jesus was communicating with Moses, the source of the Law, the Ten Commandments, and he was as well communicating with Eiljah the representative of the prophets. Scripture doesn’t tell us what the content of their conversations was, but I am sure it would have been interesting. Possibly they were comparing what they, Moses and Elijah had done and how Jesus was using it to bring people into an improved understanding the extent of God’s love and provide his example of how to live their lives in ways that would produce peace and happiness both here and hereafter. Another pair of similarities between the two accounts of Jesus and Moses was that they both entered a cloud and both were transfigure with their clothes becoming dazzling white and radiant . Can you imagine how awestruck the disciples who were with Jesus were and those with Moses must have been. Peter always had something to say but the transfiguration of Jesus frightened him to the degree that he didn’t know what to say except, “Let us build three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” With their conversation complete, Jesus with Moses and Elijah, a cloud passed over and covered them and from the cloud a voice said to Jesus and the 3 disciples, “This is my Son and I love him, listen to what he says”, just as St. Mark indicated those to be God’s words at Jesus’ baptism. Then Moses and Elijah were gone and the disciples were there alone with Jesus in total wonder and awe.
Jesus message of the Transfiguration to the apostles and to us is: “I am the new Moses and the new Elijah, don’t just watch me and listen to me, tune in to my message and follow my example. You think you know me and are tuned in to my message, but you aren’t.”
We see in Scripture that Jesus was right about his disciples as exemplified by the fact that after the Wonder and Awe of the Transfiguration wore off, they still weren’t tuned in to who Jesus was by the fact that they all deserted him when he was arrested and Peter denied him three times. It wasn’t until after the Resurrection they finally tuned in to Jesus’ message and became a part of the base for the beginning of the Christian religion.
Jesus’ message to each of us as it was to the 3 disciples is, keep tuned in to me and follow my example recognizing that the road for being my follower isn’t a smooth one. The way for each of us is the same as it was for the 3 disciples: stay tuned in to Jesus’ message by staying in continual communication with him in prayer and by devouring Jesus’ word in the scripture as well as following his example every day of our life through the thick and thin just as he did.