I decided to enter the priesthood when I was 24 years old. It was a somewhat tortured decision…as young people are apt to experience! The law was the other main contender for my path in life. Once I decided to go to seminary, I felt I had faced and overcome a great hurdle; I had accomplished a defining moment in my life.
I didn’t even notice that most of my nearest male relatives were either clergy or lawyers. I was, in a sense, going into one of the family businesses!
I realize more clearly now that we are the products of our histories and families. The truly individual decisions most of us make are few. And there’s nothing wrong about that.
Jesus, too, was the product of his history and family. His Jewish faith was passed down to him; his working life as a carpenter came from his father Joseph; his people were the peasant Galileans in a rural backwater of a Roman-controlled province of the Middle East.
Today’s strange story of Jesus on a mountaintop - with Moses and Elijah, no less – reflects Jesus’ roots in history, family, and religious tradition. This is not surprising. In many ways, Jesus followed in the prophets’ footsteps.
What is new here is the transformation (called “The Transfiguration”) that Jesus undergoes on that mountain. His appearance and his clothing blaze dazzling white. Moses and Elijah speak to Jesus of his “departure,” that is, his imminent confrontation in Jerusalem, his death, and his radical triumph over death itself. Jesus is stepping out, beyond the path laid down by his Hebrew forebears. This is confirmed by the booming voice from the clouds: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” This echoes his baptism 3 years earlier, as God confirms Jesus unique status as the one human being who will lead us all through death into life.
Most of us follow paths that have been laid down by our elders. Jesus blazes an entirely new trail for us beyond death, into life. Thank God he does. JBM