This holiday, too little celebrated in the West, marks one of the most hopeful—and the trippiest—moments in the New Testament, outside the positively psychedelic Apocalypse of St. John. According to Matthew 17:
"Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And His appearance underwent a change in their presence; and His face shone clear and bright like the sun, and His clothing became as white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, who kept talking with Him. Then Peter began to speak and said to Jesus, Lord, it is good and delightful that we are here; if You approve, I will put up three booths here—one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah. While he was still speaking, behold, a shining cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is My Son, My Beloved, with Whom I am delighted. Listen to Him!'"
Why did the Father perform this particular fireworks show for three of the apostles—particularly since Jesus told them not to talk about it until after his Resurrection? And what did it mean, anyway? Theologians don't agree, of course. But many suggest that the Father was offering Jesus' three most important followers a miraculous morale boost, before they accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem for his capture, trial, and execution. Looking up to see their teacher elevated between Israel's great messianic prophet and the giver of the Ten Commandments, these apostles were left with no excuse for doubt. In case they missed the point, the Father spelled things out for the slow-witted, as if to ask, "What part of 'THIS IS MY SON' didn't you understand?"
The Father was offering Jesus’ three most important followers a miraculous morale boost...
But what does the Transfiguration offer us today? A lesson about the nature of the Church. Notice how Peter, the first pope, reacts to the miraculous theophany of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, flanked by two Hebrew prophets: He tries to open up "booths" for a gift shop. If Jesus had let him, within a few weeks Peter would doubtless have set up a "Feast of Elijah, Moses, and Jesus," complete with sausage and peppers, a Tilt-a-Whirl, zeppole and three big, sticky statues for people to cover with money—all managed and "protected" by the Roman Mafia. If he'd given Pilate his cut, Jesus would still be alive today, serving as "capo" of the Galilee Family. But history is chock-full of such "What Ifs...."