Transfixed and Transfigured

I’m stuck on the Transfiguration.Transfigured

I know what you’re saying. “But Eric, that was Sunday’s Gospel ages ago. You need to hit refresh on your bible app.”

Fair enough. In fact, the week of that particular Gospel, I was instead reflecting on the Old Testament reading, wondering what Abraham must have been thinking on the walk to slaughter his son. (You can read more on that here.)

But this past Tuesday, my Lenten small group resumed—we’d postponed for snow—and reverted our discussion back a week, taking up themes from the March 1 Sunday readings. And as our conversation got going, I began to think of another walk—that with Jesus up and down the mountain of his transfiguration. That same walk came up again in prayer during Mass this week. All to say, it seems there’s more reflecting to be done.

So, what I do is I put myself in the story; I walk with Jesus. And when I do that, I pay close attention to my emotions, to what I’m feeling, to what stirs within me. And I’m surprised.

Because what I feel is a great sense of anxiety, nervousness, trepidation. Why? I wonder. Why do these  emotions arise within me? Certainly, they’re not what I’d expected.

Usually contemplating the Transfiguration leads me to think on how I can’t hold onto God; I can’t contain God in a “tent.” I have to walk back down mountains of joy and bring that wonder and awe into the nitty-grittiness of everyday life. At least, that’s normally the take-away message for me.

Not this time. This time, I’m faced with anxiety. Every step I take with Jesus is full of possibility, surprise. This is a guy who flips tables in the temple, brings the dead to life, leaves elders scratching their heads over cryptic sayings and rouses the anger of those who are in charge.

And what is my role in all that? I may have done fine today, but what will be expected of me next time? Am I up to the challenge? I find myself shying away from this roller coaster, from the constant shock of something unexpected—and perhaps unwanted. I find myself shying away in fear, in self-doubt, in a sense of uncertainty.

I think, then, on all those places in my life where there exists this sense of the unexpected, of things—both good and bad—outside of my control. That unlooked for extra assignment in class. That sudden phone call that derails half my workday. That next project that may not be as good as the last. The new person at work or in church or who I meet on the street that may not like me as much as I’d like them to.

All these unknowns that I have no control over. Scary stuff. But is that what walking with Jesus means? Does it mean that at any moment I’ll be asked to step up and step in and act? That at any moment, God will put me in the game and ask me to play? Yes. That’s exactly what it means.

But the benefit of walking with Jesus is that there’s a constant call to remember that I am loved as I am. That I am allowed to falter and fall, and that God asks only that I do my best by those people that are put in my path. That demands presence of mind and body—and cautions me against worrying too much about that next, unexpected encounter.

This Sunday, we heard this reading from Paul:

For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works
that God has prepared in advance,
that we should live in them.  

It’s enough to simply walk with Jesus. There’s no need to get ahead of him.

Eric Clayton

Eric Clayton works at Catholic Relief Services as part of the U.S. Church Engagement Division. He holds an MA in international media from American University and a BA in international studies and creative writing from Fairfield University. He currently lives in Baltimore with his wife and hedgehog.