HomeCommentaryWitnessing 'Transfiguration' in our midst

Witnessing ‘Transfiguration’ in our midst

People tend to stop at the emotional level without taking steps to listen and to act

The story of the Transfiguration is not what we usually think it is. It can be a revelation to believers and can be an examples of witnessing.

After almost a year of not catching up, two of my college friends and I agreed to meet on a holiday for a simple getaway. We had lunch, and we shared our experiences about our jobs, our way of life, and our social perspectives.

We did not notice the time. We decided to move out and walked to a park. While walking, we noticed the changes around — the roads were wider and quieter compared to the pre-pandemic days, and the trees and plants were blooming.

Then from somewhere, a man who was standing on the side suddenly chased us and asked for a hundred pesos. We inquired about his intention. “I am looking for a job,” he said, “but I ran out of money for my fare.”

It hit me. After the good lunch and the walk in the park, here’s a person begging for spare change. For me, it was a message: transformation does not depend on appearances.

Last week, the Philippines celebrated the 35th anniversary of the 1986 “People Power Revolution” that ousted a dictator. Unfortunately, many Filipinos continue to ask about what they really were fighting for 35 years ago. What is still to be done? How did the “revolution” transform the people?

“Change” is a word we often hear, especially during elections in the Philippines. It is not surprising that there is no shortage of candidates for elective positions in this country.

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The Gospel reading today tells of the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. It was not the changing of Jesus’ face and clothing. For me, it is, first of all, “witnessing.”

There in their presence, Jesus was transfigured, his clothes became brilliantly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. At that time, the disciples were privileged to see Elijah and Moses talking to Jesus. These are characters the disciples could have heard when they read the Scriptures.

As a result, Peter spoke to Jesus and expressed his desire to build tents for the guests. The disciples were speechless and later were frightened. The story shows us how people can react to events.

Then God said: “Listen to Him.” Before Moses and Elijah left the place, a great cloud covered the disciples and they heard God’s voice, instructing them to listen.

When everything returned to “normal,” Jesus told the disciples to keep what they saw among themselves until his resurrection.

As humans, there are numerous events in our lives that move us to react or be overwhelmed even if we haven’t fully grasped what has transpired. In the story of the Transfiguration, we are shown how we must shift from being reactive to being proactive.

“Listening” and “action” are necessary ingredients of discerning. In our daily lives, our emotions sometimes take precedence before out thinking. Many relationships are broken due to hatred because of wrong decisions, because people let their feelings of joy or sadness take over.

Filipinos are naturally emotional even in social or political discourse. I haven’t witnessed the 1986 “uprising” but I can imagine how people actually reacted to the experience. It was an experience of “witnessing.”

People, however, tend to stop at the emotional level without taking steps to listen and to act. How many of us continue to listen to the cry of the lost, the least, and the last of society? The book of Psalms reminds us: “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.”

The stage of faithfully acting on what we might have fought for usually go missing. In the Scripture, the disciples kept what they saw until Jesus’ resurrection. It also tells us how the disciples “discussed among themselves” what they have heard and seen. It is unavoidable that people doubt and search for answers.

Our work toward social transformation is not immediate. It will not end to our differences. The process starts with us witnessing events around. We may have our initial reactions, but we need to continue listening, and by careful discernment, we have to work hard until the time we arrive at the change we want.

Adrian Banguis-Tambuyat is a young communication practitioner specializing in online content strategy and broadcast journalism. His interests are focused on social justice, youth formation, communication theology and mass media evangelization.

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