This Sunday’s Gospel is the story of the Transfiguration. It is especially important when considered in the context of Lent.

Jesus took his inner circle of apostles—Peter, James, and John—up a mountain, which is a place of revelation; so it was clear something important was about to happen.

These three apostles then saw Jesus as part of another important trio, completed with Moses and Elijah, symbols of Israelite tradition.Then the voice of God is heard: “This is my Son; Listen to him.”

The apostles’ reactions showed that that they didn’t truly understand what had happened. First of all, they were half-asleep at the moment this event began. Initially, they were terrified by this experience and began to talk about building shelters for these holy figures. Then on the way down they started a debate about the resurrection and Elijah.

What the apostles didn’t understand was the significance of the fact that Moses and Elijah were “talking with” Jesus. This sacred conversation identified Jesus with the law and the prophets. It showed how Jesus had the same authority as these two pillars of Israel’s tradition and how that authority came from the same God. To leave no doubt, God’s voice drove home the point with words heard at an earlier affirmation of Jesus’ status, his baptism: “This is my son, the beloved” (Matt. 3:17).

What the apostles also didn’t get at first was that they couldn’t stay on the mountain. They still had their call to discipleship and had to return to fulfilling that.

The Gospel of Luke adds an important detail: Moses and Elijah had been speaking with Jesus “of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” His exodus? That points back to the sometimes difficult journey of following Jesus, and that’s what the transfiguration is about. It certainly had to be inspiring to witness this vision of Jesus, but the real message then and now is that witnessing glory is one thing, following is another. After the vision is over, you look up and see, as the apostles did, “Jesus only,” and you realize that, to get to the further glory of eternal life, you have to follow Him to the cross. The best way to do that is to “Listen to Him”.