Maybe it was the summer you learned to swim. You listened nervously as the instructor explained how to stay buoyant as you propelled yourself through the water. “Don’t be afraid of the water; you’ll be fine,” the instructor assured you. And so came the moment when you waded into the pool and plunged your head underwater. You did it – and a whole new world opened for you. You entered the cloud.
Or it happened once you were able to make peace with the diagnosis. You decided you would not give an inch to the disease. You found a new resolve to live your life to the fullest with a minimum of concessions. More blessedly, you rediscovered the love of family and friends who lifted you up when you stumbled, supported you as you ventured on your own, gave you space for your tears and anger. You weren’t alone in the cloud.
It was definitely the moment you said I love you to another person and it stuck. And before long, promises were made and rings were exchanged, blessings were prayed and champagne was poured. And happily ever after began. You were deep in the cloud.
Not a cloud of fog. Not a cloud of confusion. But a cloud of discovery. A cloud of encounter. A cloud in which you heard and experienced wonder, joy, hope – and God.
Such is the cloud that Peter, James and John “enter” in the story of the Transfiguration. In this cloud, they encounter God – and they are forever changed by the encounter. Sometimes these “clouds” in which we find ourselves mean changing our perceptions of what is true and why; sometimes we realize possibilities we never imaged. Certainties can become casualties in these encounters, especially those shallow convictions of who’s in and who’s out, of what’s cool and what is “so not.” Scripture is less a book about certainties than it is a collection of stories about encounters with God – stories in which God makes his mercy and justice known and individuals struggle to respond faithfully to that revelation. Today’s Gospel is one such encounter. The story of the Transfiguration invites us to let go of our certainties and cede our need to control in order to encounter the holy in our lives, to meet God in the “cloud” of our homes and schools, at our tables and beds, within that quiet place in our hearts where God dwells.