The Transfiguration – A Mystery of Mercy

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By Sister Meg Eckart

As I pray today’s Gospel in the style of lectio divina, the word that comes to me is “mystery.” I am struck by the human responses of Jesus’ disciples – first they are “overcome by sleep,” totally unaware of the transformation happening right in their presence; then Peter, out of his limited understanding, expresses his desire to remain in that moment of grace; lastly, they “became frightened” when entering the cloud and hearing a message – by the end, they held the entire mystery of the experience in the silence of their hearts. 

I am also struck by Jesus’ patient presence to the disciples’ human reactions to what they were witnessing.  The Gospel today reminds me that the Mystery of Mercy is ever present in our lives, inviting us to trust in that presence and to ponder the many ways that Mercy transforms and changes the ordinary into the extraordinary in our everyday lives.

I am reminded of my own encounter with this Mystery of Mercy.  I taught a particularly challenging student during my experience as a Candidate, working in a government-run secondary school that primarily received students of difficult backgrounds, both in family and in education.  This student was very aggressive towards other students, verbally and physically, and almost every class, she was the source of at least one disruption. 

Throughout the two years I had her as a student, I moved between a rhythm of frustration by her behavior and a renewed commitment to engage her in small conversation inside and outside the class, hopeful of change.  As the school year came down to the end, I began to see a total change in her behavior and interaction in my classes. 

Instead of finding excuses to leave class, this student began getting the other students moving to their seats when she saw me walking to the classroom; instead of causing disruptions during classwork, she took leadership in keeping her peers engaged and attentive to the classroom. She was the last student that I expected would have made such a transformation.

The mystery of God’s Mercy was at work in both of our hearts, and it makes me aware that the change manifested in the transfiguration has a mutual impact.  I had often been tempted to give up my efforts to try with this student, but am filled with gratitude at the gradual work of God’s Mercy and am reminded to trust in the Mystery of that mercy.

Today’s Gospel begins by telling us that Jesus took three of his disciples up the mountain with him to pray.  He could have just as easily gone up that mountain alone and experienced his own transformation.  Yet, the Gospel emphasizes that Jesus intentionally took three of his disciples, who subsequently witnessed the grace and mystery of his transfiguration.  Jesus’ invitation to encounter and receive this grace and mystery extend to us today.  

This invitation encourages us to be both attentive and open to the mystery of God’s Mercy working for the change and transformation that we need individually and that a world in crisis needs.  How is God inviting you to encounter or receive the Mystery of Mercy that changes and reforms?