The Transfiguration: Hope in the face of hardship

March 13, 2019

The Pastor's Page

Hardships are part of life. So is death. Both are inescapable. Jesus went through it. So did Peter, James, and John. And so do we. When one is worried and burdened with the trials and tribulations of life, how is a person to handle it and carry on?

Jesus could see immense hardship coming his way and he was deeply troubled. He had come to the terrifying realization, I “must suffer greatly” (Lk 9:22a). In fact, I will “be killed” (Lk 9:22b). Jesus could see his Passion and death looming in the not-too-distant future. Both would be inescapable. It was a deep, dark, low spot for him. He was afraid. He wondered, “How can I possibly get through this? Do I dare go to Jerusalem?”

TransfigurationJesus’ Father was well aware of his Son’s trembling heart, and it was time to intervene. The Father extended hope to his anxious Son with a mystical experience. For a moment is was as if Jesus was in heaven. His clothes turned dazzling white, the way that heavenly beings are clothed. Moses and Elijah stood beside him, guests from heaven. He was surrounded by a cloud, as a cloud encircles the angels and saints in heaven. The Father gave Jesus a brief glimpse of heaven to give him hope. The Father wanted to reassure his Son, “If you endure your suffering and death, the glory of heaven will be yours. If you place your hope in me and my promise, you will be able to carry on.” And Jesus, with his hope renewed, “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51).

Jesus knew that his apostles would face terrible hardships and their own deaths, and as the Father gave hope to Jesus, Jesus wanted to give hope to Peter, James, and John, so he took them with him to share in his mystical experience (Lk 9:28). While Jesus received a glimpse of heaven, so did his three apostles. As Jesus was given hope that the glory of heaven would be his, Jesus wanted to give his disciples hope that the glory of heaven would be theirs also.

Peter had many hardships. The religious leaders persecuted him, and on multiple occasions he was arrested, imprisoned, and placed on trial. It was painful to lead the Jerusalem community through its turmoil. It was a bitter pill to go to Rome, only to be imprisoned again, and then to be crucified on an X-shaped cross. Peter persevered. He placed his hope in Jesus, and it was Jesus who transformed Peter’s lowly body to conform with his glorified body (see Phil 3:21).

James was beset by hardship. He made a grueling missionary trip to Spain where he was widely rejected. He considered himself a dismal failure. After an appearance of the Blessed Mother and the child Jesus, things improved. He then returned to Jerusalem, only to be beheaded by King Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:2). James persevered. He placed his hope in Jesus, and it was Jesus who transformed James’ lowly body to conform with his glorified body (see Phil 3:21).

Finally, John was afflicted with hardship. He went to Rome where he was immersed in a cauldron of boiling oil and miraculously survived. Then he went to Ephesus, was persecuted, and exiled to a solitary life in a cave on the Island of Patmos. When he returned to Ephesus he was given poison to drink, miraculously survived again, suffered the struggles of declining health, and died at the age of 94. John persevered. He placed his hope in Jesus, and it was Jesus who transformed John’s lowly body to conform with his glorified body (see Phil 3:21).

Every person, like Jesus, Peter, James and John, has hardships and is facing eventual death. It is cause for worry and anxiety. Jesus wants us to know that if we place our hope in him, take up our cross each day, and follow in his footsteps (Lk 9:23), that glory that his Father showed to him will be ours.

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About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

View all posts by Father Michael Van Sloun