I always point out that although our missals tell us today’s Gospel is Matthew, 17:1-9; it actually leaves off the first half of verse one that says, “After six days . . .”
The fist half of Matthew 17:1 made a point that was important to Matthew. He was telling us that today’s incident was brought on by the announcement six days before that Jesus was to be put to death. Jesus had saddened both the disciples and himself by saying their happy days were drawing to a close. He told them they were headed for Jerusalem where he would be handed over to foreigners and put to death. That was so opposed to what they had been expecting, that his words went over the heads of most of the disciples. He followed up that dire warning by saying his disciples too would have to take up crosses.
Those two sad predictions might have sunk in a little with Peter, James and John; so, a week later, when Jesus, in need of comfort from the Father, climbed a mountain, he brought Peter, James and John along for their share of heavenly assurance.
On the mountain they had a heavenly experience that was beyond words. The story Matthew lays before us probably isn’t factual, but it is a good attempt at letting us experience something of what the three disciples went through.
They had slept, then, awoke to see the bottom of heaven stretching down like a trampoline. It stretched down just far enough to take Jesus in. With that, he was changed into a heavenly being. He appeared glorified.
The Jews had a belief that two mortals had made it to heaven. The dead Moses along with the whole of his grave from opposite Beth Peor had been taken up to heaven; and Elijah had been taken up in a fiery chariot. Those two came over to chat with Jesus. Luke tells us they talked about the end of Jesus’ mission.
Then, as Peter tells us in his Second Letter, they heard the Father calling Jesus his Son. The story is meant to do for us what it did for Jesus, Peter, James and John. It is meant to assure us that heaven is waiting for all who are faithful.