Transformed by Grief

Background image - Sun and mountains

We are a far cry from the wilderness. Instead, we emerge from the doubt and suffering alongside Jesus as he transcends these necessary but tarnished emotions to reconfigure into the pure light of God. 

We think of transfiguration as a form of miracle, something that could not happen to an ordinary person on an ordinary day. However, every sacred story speaks to our own lives in its own very particular way. The grief, which can engulf us in times of great loss, including the death of our loved ones, can be transformed from doubt and suffering to love, as we rise above earthly problems and touch the very essence of God.

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke: The Transfiguration

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.  They appeared in glory and were speaking about his exodus, which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep, but as they awoke, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.  Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us set up three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah,” not realizing what he was saying.  While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.  Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”  When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and, in those days, told no one any of the things they had seen.

In this meeting that precedes impending death, the presence of Elijah and Moses, already departed from this world, suggests that the gateway to God is right here! As Jesus’ external form dissolves into its more essential and pure quality of living love, the disciple’s faith is both jolted and strengthened as they are witnesses to the great mystery of life.  

Even though Jesus would have felt held by his forebears, we can’t help wondering about the fear and trepidation that he must have been feeling about what was to come. But rather than staying on the mountain, in the bliss and light of transfiguration, he faces the challenge of life and what it holds in the cobbled streets and shouting crowds below. 

Because there are no shortcuts to resurrection and transfiguration, we have to do the messy work below,  which can bring a mixture of joy, distress and pain before we can transcend to the heights of the mountain. Our challenge though is to always have faith that God is not only found on the mountain, at the heights of our experience, but equally, we can touch the face of God in the divine mess and troughs of daily life. 

With that, we invite you to take a moment to look into yourselves and contemplate the following:

Reflective Questions to Ponder

  • How does your relationship with Jesus give you comfort both on the mountain and in the valleys of your daily lived experience?
  • How do you experience the transfigured Jesus in your everyday life
  • Have you transformed through your own grief? How?

Final Words

Every day as we grieve our transfigured loved ones, we face the grit of daily life in service and devotion until it is our turn to join them and become transfigured ourselves. In service to all sentient beings and to the planet, we are transformed minute by minute, as we hone our own rough diamonds with their jagged edges to the smooth crystalline gems, as our hard work is transfigured from challenge and persistence to the spirit of light and love.