In today’s Gospel we read St. Luke’s account of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who reveals just a glimpse of His glory for an instant to His three “right-hand men” – the most privileged of His Apostles, Peter, James & John. Three of the Gospel writers record this event. St. Luke has the most subdued description. But even he describes that scene, high up Mt. Tabor, as the Disciples seeing Christ’s face and clothing becoming “dazzling white” (“whiter than any fuller [bleacher] could ever make them,” says one of the other evangelists, and “as bright as the Sun,” says another).
When we piece together the accounts from Scripture, we see that the Apostles are dumbfounded and almost paralyzed in fear at this transformation. That is because they see just the tiniest glimmer of the fullness of His glory – a holiness and power so bright that it is terrible in its intensity, almost beyond man’s capacity to take it in. In much of the classic religious art of the scene, we see the Apostles literally knocked to the ground by that light. (Raphael, depicted here is one of the most famous).
While the Lord is transfigured, the Apostles observe Him speaking to Moses and Elijah, representing the generations of faithful before the Lord’s coming, showing how the Law and the Prophets all pointed to the reality that Jesus is truly the Divine Son of God in the Flesh. God the Father reveals in this scene the necessity of being obedient to the commandments and will of His Son, and Jesus begins to reveal that before He can enter His heavenly glory and free us from our bondage to sin, He must suffer and die for us.
St. Luke records the detail that, after the Father reveals that Jesus is truly His Son, “Jesus was found alone.” That line is packed with meaning. It is Jesus alone who saves us; Jesus alone Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and Jesus alone Who shows us the way to the Father. We tie that truth together with His teaching that salvation comes through the Church which He founded on His Apostles, including Peter who witnessed the Transfiguration and who is the Rock of the Church. That is not just an interesting historical tidbit, but a necessary reminder to us in how we live our faith and avoid veering away from it. Because in every generation Christians are tempted to find other ways to healing and happiness than through Christ alone.
I have been a priest for close to 20 years now, and I have seen many people making dangerous attempts to “mix and match” in their faith, according to whatever non-Christian fad is currently popular. (The technical term for this practice is the Greek word, syncretism). That is, they claim to be Christian and Catholic, and even may still frequent the sacraments, but they turn to essentially pagan practices to “supplement” when they are suffering or just “bored” with the “same old faith” their parents had.
For example, when I was first a pastor on the west side of Cincinnati, I was distressed to find that a nearby Catholic institution was sponsoring workshops in Reiki, an Eastern pagan practice also sometimes promoted as “healing touch.” The problems with these practices is that they can open people up to demonic influence. My brother pastors from other parts of the diocese tell me that various New Age movements are taking root in some of the Catholic parishes. These are rooted in beliefs that certain objects (such as crystals) can channel positive energy to heal us, or that there are techniques that can control “negative” and “positive” energy. There are countless “gurus” who push these and similar false teachings, which are anti-Christian and anti-scientific as well. (Christianity always supports true science and medicine). One of the more popular gurus now is an Indian fellow named Deepak Chopra. It is a bit surprising how many people will fall for these charlatans — even well-educated people. When I was a seminarian doing chaplaincy training, we heard a pitch from a medical doctor who was convinced that the right crystals and magnetic forces could heal whatever ails you. Needless to say, I would not entrust myself to his medical care if I were ill!
When I was a teen, various pagan meditations were all the rage, such as TM. While meditating on the Scriptures and the lives of the saints is a fine practice to help our spiritual lives, these secular counterfeits are rooted in the idea that we have to remove ourselves from reality and all its suffering. In many ways, these are dangerous because they are the opposite of what Christ teaches: that we can only come to the glory of Christ through sharing in the suffering of His Cross. Other false movements (especially popular in academia) like to “pull apart” Jesus as if He were somehow schizophrenic. They claim the “Jesus of History” is separate from the Jesus Who is God. That is, they push the false notion that the Scriptures were filtered through people’s imperfect understanding back in the Biblical days, but that we now know a different, more enlightened Jesus than what the Church has always taught about Him.
I could go on. The point is, we have to be very vigilant in teaching our children and grandchildren that Christ and His Church alone are the way to salvation, healing and peace. There is no “mixing and matching,” no gurus, no quick and easy shortcuts that can substitute for remaining close to Christ and His Church. If some kind of fad seems too good to be true, it is.