Daylight Savings Time and the rapidly spreading coronavirus have disrupted the predictable rhythms of daily life. Coffee shop conversations wrap around continuous hand washing, the upcoming quarantines, being prepared. There is an undercurrent of fear, a display of uncertainty, some grasping for rationality. To all this, today’s Gospel of Matthew speaks: the story of the Transfiguration, the transformation of Jesus. He glows in the vision, is paired with Elijah and Moses, is recognized as a prophet and then named as the Beloved Son of God. The unexpected nature of that moment pairs with the crises of our time while the very clarity of it contrasts deeply with the ambiguity of now.
Unexpected matters. Humans find a certian comfort in routine; there is an expectation that what is familiar is known and understood. It is somehow manageable in whatever form. But the Transfiguration radically altered what was familiar. It evoked fear and awe in the disciples. It demanded an acknowledgment of change. Reality, that Jesus was more than what anyone really knew, was overwhelming. And yet, the often overlooked moments in the story were the disciples attempting to meet this revelation. There was fear, misunderstanding, new responses; basically, there was a learning curve.
The current situation is much the same: truths and realities have impinged on what is most comfortable and familiar. Nations and persons are struggling to respond to this new reality and are living out a similar learning curve. It is all occurring within the limitations of who and how we are, much like the disciples struggling through their glimpse at the big picture. Just as it was for them, the question for us is, “What now? How to proceed?”
The crystal clarity of the disciples’ view of Jesus is in sharp contrast to the converging chaos of images about the cornoavirus and the attendant information sources. In a world where the dominance of media and internet sources has shaped a public forum for crisis and despair, beginning to glimpse what is really happening is daunting at best. Making wise choices for individuals and communities is not at all simple or clear. Instead, it is a testament to how very much we need the best from each other right now. But, wait, isn’t that what Jesus and the disciples needed from one another? The very best from one another?
The Transfiguration made clear who Jesus was, but it did the same for the disciples. In a sense, this moment in time is showing human beings who we are in the same way. It is a moment asking us for more. It is not enough to think just of now, of self. This is about looking at the whole perspective of how we respond to news and make choices, how we respond to each other, how we look at illnesses and health care. It is about looking at what really matters and what we can do about it. It s about believing that it matters, that we matter, and that we can make a difference. After all, that was the path the disciples chose.