Praying the Rosary on the way to work, something new regarding the Transfiguration jumped out at me. You remember the event: While Jesus was at prayer on a mountaintop, Peter, James, and John witnessed Him become “more brilliant than the sun.” Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus, and the disciples could hear them discussing His “exodus.” The scene culminated with a cloud overshadowing the mountain (as the Shekinah, or cloud of God’s glory, had when Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai) and God the Father proclaiming, “This is My Beloved Son, listen to Him.”
The new data that registered with me is actually preliminary to everything I just recounted: before the Apostles witnessed this, they had climbed a mountain! Traditionally Mt. Tabor, with an elevation of 1929 feet, has been identified as the spot. (Imagine the St. Louis Arch multiplied by three). Those boys had to exert themselves a bit to “get into position” for the Transfiguration.
And that got me thinking about the energy we have to exert in our own lives. To make progress as Christians we have to work. God may have given us a new nature, but that doesn’t mean its “second nature” yet. (That sentence is crying out to become a bumper sticker.) Seriously though, think about your day so far. How many words or actions do you regret? I can think of a few. There’s no reason to become disheartened though. When the Apostles were climbing that mountain they had to exert themselves…but Jesus was right there alongside them. The Lord was exerting Himself, as they were exerting themselves. And the same is true for us. We have to do the work, we have to make an honest, concentrated effort; but Jesus is right there alongside us — and thanks to His resurrection and ascension, in us — working to get us to that next level. Without Him its impossible; but with Him, there are no limits.
This is what the Church is talking about when it says that final salvation is the result of Faith and Works. We become the kind of creatures that can exist in Heaven because we’ve actively cooperated with God’s activity. Maybe it’s a bit confusing to talk about Faith and Works as two separate activities; it’s really one fluid movement, beginning in God and returning to Him, through us. Listen to the Apostle Paul: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). It’s 100% God and, because of grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit, 100% us too! We’re joined to Jesus, as He loves and gives Himself to the Father, through us! We’re inserted into the very Life of the Trinity.
And like the Apostles, embracing Jesus’ desire to get us to the “top of the mountain,” leads to incredible realities. Like them, we get to pray alongside Jesus. And because of that, our prayer will change, will become more mature, will focus upon God’s will instead of ours. We get to hear Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets) of the Old Covenant speaking to us as we study Scripture. Divine Light enables us to see things about ourselves and our situation that would have been impossible before.
And this pattern will be repeated again and again in our lives, as Jesus challenges us to follow Him from one peak to the next, until we’re as high as we can possibly go –”Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22).