Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Mark 9: 2-10
A striking feature of the Gospels in how faithfully the inspired authors set down what Christ said and did, whether they understood it or not. The bewilderment of the Apostles to the Transfiguration I fully share in. For a moment Christ dropped the flesh he was veiled in and stood revealed as the great I AM, the Second Person of the Trinity, and Peter, James and John reacted with sheer terror. Our intellects, made dark here below by sin, cannot grasp such a thing, so Christ was perceived as a blinding white light. No passage in the Gospels better illustrates the infinite gulf between Man and the God who made us.
Of course our human existence is one of constant change here below. From birth to death our bodies and minds engage in ceaseless change. Our souls also change as we either make them worthy of Heaven or make them damned for Hell. The fear of the Apostles at sight of the Transfiguration is echoed in the great question for all of us: what happens after this life? Some take refuge in atheism, assuming that our bodies will return to dust and that will be the end of us. People deep in sin might find that eternal nothingness attractive, but such is not what our Creator destined us for. We will either eventually join Him in Heaven or be separated eternally from Him in Hell. Christ became like us so we could become like Him.
Yes, we are to become like Him if we win our battle against our sins, and grasp tight the lifeline of His grace. One day, in the Beatific Vision, please God, we will see Him face to face, not as blinding light but as love incarnate. However, to accomplish this we must be transfigured, shedding ourselves of our sins, our cowardice, our arrogance, our folly and the hardness of our hearts, making our souls as He made them, pure and undefiled. In Purgatory the transfiguration is accomplished for those of us who die in a state of grace and are not ready for Heaven.
Dante described Purgatory as a place of joyous suffering where the penances match the sins, and where sinful Man is prepared for the Eternal Joy of Heaven. May God grant to all of us the determination to begin our path of transfiguration today and not tomorrow, and to follow that path until we reach the mansion that God has prepared for us in the Kingdom of Love Eternal.