This Sunday’s Gospel reading is Matthew’s account of the transfiguration. It’s a familiar story to many of us, but this week when I read the part where a dumbstruck Peter offers to erect three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah after witnessing Jesus’ astounding meeting with them, I felt something was missing. Sure enough, looking at Luke’s account of this miracle, there was this little parenthetical phrase about Peter’s offer that didn’t make it into Matthew’s account:
He did not know what he was saying.
This little observation tells us either Peter was still a little hazy after he, John and James emerged from a dreamlike state, or that Peter didn’t really get the point of this whole vision. It wouldn’t be the first time that Peter and the rest of the disciples were either too sleepy or too human to understand the miracle that was Jesus.
Indeed, if you look up what happens after this account in Matthew, you’ll read about a man begging Jesus to cure his son of the demon afflicting him. This man actually lodges a complaint at the same time, telling Jesus that he brought his son to the disciples for a cure, but they failed. Jesus then has one of those rare moments where you can picture him rolling his eyes and saying “Really, Peter?”
Here’s what he actually said, according to Matthew:
“O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?”
So, offering one of history’s first and greatest examples of the now famous saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” Jesus drove the demon out of the boy.
“Why couldn’t WE do that,” the disciples wondered.
“Because of your little faith,” Jesus answered. “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
And that’s a key takeaway from all of this Sunday’s readings. In the first reading from Genesis, God sends Abram off on his mission of salvation, and in our second reading, Paul does the same for his disciple, Timothy, saying:
“Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God. He saved us and called us to a holy life.”
All of these men of God struggled with their own human failings, but their faith in God ultimately helped them do great things—like inspire all of us who are reading about them thousands of years later to try earning the same faith they struggled to achieve. It is our mission to keep this faith alive among everyone we know so by the time Christ comes again his disciples will no longer be a drag on his endurance.
The homily I heard also focused on Peter’s response. The focus was on how Peter calculated that this place and building tents is the answer. You can stop now, Jesus, and WE will build the tents and people will come here, end of story. In other words, Peter was going to do the rest on his own, and as soon as he started down that road, the Father interrupted him to remind him, it is not your power Peter, no matter how well intentioned, it is My Son who will make things happen.
We can accomplish nothing without Christ, it is written somewhere.