Sunday, Aug. 6, is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Mass Readings: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 97:1-2, 5-6, 9; 2 Peter 1:16-19; Matthew 17:1-9
In today’s second reading, St. Peter says that “we do not follow cleverly devised myths.” But the first reading sounds like a cleverly devised myth; and the Gospel seems to echo it. How can Peter be right?
Because we do not, in fact, follow cleverly devised myths — but we do believe some things that are very strange. But just because something is strange doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
A student here at the college believed that Narwhals were made up. When he heard about them as a kid, they seemed made up — whales with a single horn look too inconvenient to be true. He assumed they were fairy-tale “unicorns of the sea.”
But they are not made up. They are real.
Many strange things that sound invented are real: Hippo milk is really pink, it really rains diamonds on Saturn and Jupiter, and the largest living creature is a fungus in Oregon.
Just because something is strange doesn’t mean it isn’t true. What’s true in nature is true in the life of faith: God chooses to do both impressive “normal” things and startlingly strange things to prove his love for us.
For instance, God speaks to us of his grandeur in the silent beauty of a summer day — but he also speaks through choirs of angels.
The book Unbroken describes an incident that happened when Louie Zamperini was lost at sea: “Above him, floating in a bright cloud, he saw human figures, silhouetted against the sky. He counted twenty-one of them. They were singing the sweetest song he had ever heard. … This was, he felt certain, no hallucination, no vision.”
Yes, God is usually the “Lord of the Slow-Motion Miracle.” But he is also the “Lord of the Grand Display.” He usually turns water into wine the hard way — through a grape vine. But sometimes he skips the middleman and speeds the process up.
We are used to being dazzled by his glory via the stars in the night sky or in sunlight glinting off of a lake. In the Transfiguration, he skips the middleman and shows his glory directly. “His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light,” says the Gospel.
St. Peter was an eyewitness, and he sounds like Zamperini when he testifies to it in today’s second reading: This is no “cleverly devised myth.” He knows what he saw and he knows what he heard, a “unique declaration … from the majestic glory,” a voice saying: “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
When you hear about these things from a reliable source, don’t doubt. Marvel. And don’t point out how impossible they are. Some things that seem impossible are true.
As Peter says, “You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
Tom Hoopes is writer
in residence at
Benedictine College and
author of The Fatima Family Handbook.