Monday, February 18, 2008

The Transfiguration

This week's Gospel reading at mass was Matthew's version of the Transfiguration of Christ. Jesus took Peter and the Boanerges (sons of thunder), brothers James and John up a hill away from the rest and suddenly he shone with great radiance. To either side of him appeared Elijah the great prophet and Moses the keeper of the Law. Essentially it was God showing to the three that they were in the presence of His son. As they left, Jesus told the three that they should keep what they saw to themselves until after His resurrection.

What I find interesting is that this story is retold in Matthew, Mark, and Luke in much the same way, but is absent from the Gospel of John. Since John was the only Gospel author that was on the hill, his perspective would have been the only first-hand eyewitness account. John was probably in his teens or early twenties when he was with Jesus, but wrote the Gospel in his eighties. I don't know how much he was aware of all three other Gospels but he must have been familiar with one or two. His account gives a very different perspective and includes events that are completely absent from the others. It is my guess that he wanted his work to be an addition to the other Gospels so that some very important teachings and dialogs were not lost.

The absence of the Tranfiguration in John's Gospel highlights what is important to us at different stages in our life. By the time John had reached his eighties, he had been a Church elder for sixty years. He was no doubt more introspective and exhausted by ministry. Clearly his writing shows great wisdom and thought. But how much more interesting might his work have been had he written when he was still young.