A little tap on the shoulder is sometimes all it takes to bring us back to reality.
A parishioner told me that he was in church a few weeks back and lost track of where he was. He remained kneeling after the Eucharistic Prayer had been finished. In that quiet, intimate moment, he was transported to another place—not literally or even metaphysically or mystically but mentally. Suddenly, there was a tap on his shoulder. He looked up. The pews in front of him were empty. Everyone had already gone up for Communion. A kind passerby wanted him to realize that it was past time for him to get up and head to the altar rail. In that moment—with that touch—he rushed back into the present, and proceeded with the rest of the service.
Matthew is the only gospel writer to include an element of touch in the Transfiguration story, and we get a chance to relish that little detail in this Sunday’s gospel lesson. Mark and Luke tell the same narrative, but they leave out the bit about “But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’” That’s my favorite part of the story. It makes it so real. It helps me understand just how far the disciples had travelled in their minds and in their spirits. Jesus himself had to come and tap them on the shoulder to bring them back to reality—to remind them that it was time to carry on. And, when they looked up, awakened from their trance, everything was back to normal. Jesus was standing there, looking at them, saying, “Come on, guys. Time to go.”
Allow yourself the chance to be transported in this wonderful story. It is a moment when a little bit of heaven comes to earth and invites the observers to be transported back into heaven. Eventually, of course, someone has to come and tap you on the shoulder. Your mother has to wake you up from that pleasant dream. The gentle shake has to bring you back to your senses. The cares of the physical world have to come back. But for a moment—at least a moment—let your mind and soul wander away. Escape the limitations of this world. Dwell in heaven as long as you can. Enjoy being somewhere else. Eventually, the tap on the shoulder will come.