Matthew 17:1-9, The Transfiguration of our Lord
We had a Himig Heswita concert in Tokyo over two weeks ago. Out of the six singers who were supposed to perform, only two made it. The other four didn’t get their visas on time. It wasn’t really their fault. Last May, our very well-meaning secretary volunteered to do the run-around for the visas. But then, things got very busy in the office. So what he did was—he entrusted all their papers to a very good friend whose mother knew her way around travel agencies. But, long story short, our secretary’s friend sat on the papers. The documents never reached his mom. Worse, he charged my friends outrageous fees for this, that, and the other, inventing “requirements” which we later found out were bogus. In the end, no visas. So, imagine: Sakura Hall, Shibuya Cultural Center, famous for classical concerts, a huge place. But instead of isx singers promised, only two came. We had to convince one of the organizers there who sang in a church choir to sing with us , and he agreed. But imagine all the readjustments of solo parts, the three-part harmonies coming to naught, the last-minute rehearsals. Everything hung on a thread all because of a fixer. Fixers don’t care for anyone other than themselves, do they? Or anything other than your money.
A very good friend used to work with government. I remember him saying, “Mula sa mga clerk sa front desk na nagpapa-pedicure o kumakain ng maruya during office hours, pataas hanggang sa mga boss na walang ginagawa, the whole system is just crawling with ineptitude and corruption.” I guess that’s why we have fixers. We part with good money on them because we can’t be bothered by long lines and waiting and rudeness. It’s not entirely our fault, after all, that government gets a pedicure and eats maruya and goes on junkets while we wait in line. In a bizarre and annoying kind of way, fixers “save” us, like “saviors” of some kind. But then again, maybe this is why our country has never seen a transfiguration—the way South Korea, Thailand, Japan have gone through a transfiguration. We’ve relied too much on fixers to do the dirty work for us, and expedite our cause; and from the passion and suffering of it all, to spare us.
Allow me to go into catechism mode for a while. We Christians understand the Lord’s Transfiguration in three ways. First, in the Bible, the mountain is a privileged place where God and human persons meet. But this time on Mt Tabor, Jesus is the privileged point, our bridge to our God. Secondly, in the Transfiguration, God’s confirms and affirms that Jesus is not only the Messiah prophesied, represented here by Moses & Elijah. God also confirms and affirms that Jesus is most importantly, his beloved Son. Lastly, the Transfiguration previews and anticipates the Resurrection. So, gloriousness and majesty; that’s what we read in the Transfiguration, a mysterium tremendum et fascinosum, a mystery that terrifies us yet fascinates us, as it did Peter who said, “Wow, let’s just stay up here!” No, Jesus says. Baliktad. You don’t get to the glory by leaving the struggle. You stay with the struggle and leave the glorifying to God. So, despite his stature as our bridge to God, the fulfillment of all prophecies, the beloved Son who will rise again—Jesus had to climb down Mt. Tabor. He’s had to resume being our “fixer”—fixing our ills and disabilities, our demons anbd our despair. Worst, a real part of that descent will be an ascent…but to a cross. But see, Jesus entrusts none of these to fixers. He will have none of these expedited…not if he really wants humanity to be transfigured into the image and likeness of God. Because isn’t that the reason why God sends us the Messiah: to transfigure us all into his image and likeness?
Dear sisters and brothers, the image and likeness of God is not all glory and majesty. Jesus is the image and likeness of the Father. If we are to be transfigured into that image and likeness, then we will have to reckon with being a picture of pain for the sake of a good cause, being a picture of despair over thanklessness, a picture of sorrow when people we love don’t and won’t love us back the same way. So the image and likeness of a glorious, majestic God includes an image and likeness of a suffering Messiah. It’s like a watermark, this image of a suffering God. It floats beneath the much bolder ink of God’s glory and majesty. Jesus has had to go through the long & arduous way towards the Resurrection. Only then is he finally an d irreversibly transfigured. No shortcuts, no excuses, no fixers.
And then there are these incredibly wealthy parents who give their children everything they ask for to compensate for their constant absence. Money as “fixer” of an ailing family—no transfiguration, walang pagbabago. And then there’s the man who promptly goes to confession to get absolution, but never apologizing to people he hurts and harms. A sacrament as “fixer” of sin—no transfiguration, walang pagbabago. And the terror professor who delights in flunking students, but passes a high-pointer varsity player who hardly shows up for class. Favoritism as “fixer” of school victory—no transfiguration. Walang pagbabago. And what about the men who kill and kill and kill again. Bullets as “fixers” of society—no transfiguration, surprise, surprise. Walang pagbabago.
But then there’s the alcoholic who finally surrenders himself to a laborious rehab…and the weary couple who are on the via dolorosa of marriage therapy…and OFWs who soldier on through loneliness and slavery…and the cancer-stricken wife and mom who never loses faith in God and keeps serving her family and her church even when she feels her very strength leaking out and away day by day…. there, sisters and brothers, there happens the transfiguration. As a famous psychologist said: “We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love.” But embrace the necessary descent to passion and anguish in order to raise people to God…and the transfiguration happens. Something is changed, a relationship is transformed, we are transfigured. No shortcuts, no excuses, no fixers.