There is such a thing as a ‘near-life experience,’ a transforming encounter with the light of life. The Transfiguration describes a remarkable encounter of such a kind, an encounter that may find reflections in our own lives, much needed at the current time. 

When the disciples witnessed the unbelievable events of Christ’s Transfiguration, the decision Peter, James and John had to make was whether to trust their minds or their hearts; they were brought face to face with reality for the first time, and they saw life eternal in the transfigured Jesus. With the eyes of their hearts they saw Jesus as he really was. His blinding light was the light of life. Rather than having a near-death experience, they had a near-life experience.

When the disciples had finally seen Jesus the way he truly was, they heard a voice they knew to be God’s own, telling them: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” Because they had caught a glimpse of his eternal significance before he died, the disciples came to believe that Jesus was the embodiment of everything he said about God; this would help them in dealing with his passion and death, and prepare them for his resurrection.

Where others saw a miserable executed criminal, they gradually came to see a shining human being, as they had seen him in a flash on the mountain. They knew that it had not just been a dream up there on the mountain; it had been a moment of truth. Each of us can have experiences in which the light of life shines so clearly that we can’t help but stop and marvel and then reflect it back. Near-life experiences can be had in our everyday lives—and when we bring light to others, we can be near-life experiences to them.

Currently, we live in a world that has transformed our country into a place afflicted with chaos and fear. When fear of “the others” is promoted, our Lord’s “least of these” (Matthew 25) are under threat, and as the People of God we are called to act. “Take that light in, let it change you and then reflect it back.” Transfiguration is not a personal possession; it is a communal process. Once the light has shone into our hearts, we can act as a transfigured people, and the people around us need us to do just that.

 Look at the mirror ball on this table. Watch how the light dances in the reflection of each tiny facet. Imagine that every one of us is represented in the multitude of mirrors taking in and reflecting the light. Let us be near-life experiences to as many as possible. Let us point them to the light and life that comes from our God who doesn’t abandon his people.

Fritz Wendt