Every year, on the Second Sunday of Lent we have the Gospel story about Jesus being transfigured on a mountaintop. Last year we had Luke’s version of the story, next year it will be Mark’s. For the Mass each year our church’s lectionary cuts off the first three words in the Bible story. The Bible tells us that Jesus went up the mountain either a week or three days after telling the disciples about the cruel death awaiting him.
I think Matthew, Mark and Luke wanted us to see that the stark announcement of his coming crucifixion had left Jesus so desolate, that he needed to be alone with the Father; and for that he climbed a mountain where he could be as close to him as possible.
My guess is that Jesus took Peter James and John with him because he saw them to be the only ones who were saddened by his announcement of his early death. When they reached the top of the mountain, the three Apostles, weary from the climb, fell asleep on the ground. Then, when they woke up, they saw Jesus in glory above them: his face like the sun, and his clothing like light itself.
I think that the Bible story is asking us to imagine an elastic floor of heaven stretching down, taking Jesus in. He was being given a foretaste of the happiness that would reward him for undergoing a hideous death.
In the Old Testament there were only two individuals who were thought to be already in heaven. One was Elijah who was taken up in a fiery chariot. The other was Moses, whose complete grave from opposite Bethpeor was whisked up to heaven. From their place in heaven, Elijah and Moses moseyed over to speak soothingly with Jesus about his coming departure from this world.
(I’ve said enough. Read the rest of it in your Bible.)