Have you done a gut check recently? No, not the one that involves a steady regimen of probiotics. No. I mean a real gut check where we take a good hard look inside ourselves, especially when we’ve got a big decision to make.
Do I have what it takes to do this? Do I have the courage and determination? Does it ignite the fire and energy within me? Do I have the guts?
I imagine that Jesus’ friends and disciples had to perform a gut check not once, not twice, but many times throughout their life with Jesus.
Is this guy for real? What is this feeling burning in my heart? Could I really just give it all away and follow him? Do I have the guts?
The event of the Transfiguration is not just a story about Jesus’ messiahship – although it is that – it’s also a story about guts.
We know the story well. Jesus takes a few disciples up the mountain. There he is transfigured and visits with Moses and Elijah. The disciples are in awe and want to build three tents. But God interrupts and, echoing Jesus’ baptism, declares, “This is my son with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus “untransfigures” and, as he and the disciples descend the mountain, instructs them to tell no one.
The disciples head home from this “mountain-top” experience having to act like nothing happened. But something did happen. They felt not just a spark but a blazing fire within their hearts. They caught a glimpse of the fullness of who Jesus really was – yes, the fulfillment of the Law, symbolized by Moses, and of the Prophets, symbolized by Elijah. But they also realized something even more awesome – Jesus really is the one who he said he is, the Son of God.
Of course, the disciples couldn’t exactly articulate that at the time. But in later years, the early church could -- for they could now see all of the pieces come together in the event of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. The Messiah, the one who has visited and redeemed the people. This was something that they would need to tap into again and again.
Life was hard. The nascent church had a huge mission on its hands and were still processing the massive changes in their life since coming to know Jesus. They also faced a lot of hostility and even death from the powers that be.
This is where the story and meaning of the Transfiguration story comes into play.
The early church, through the author Matthew, wrote down the event of the Transfiguration to remind the church: Look, no matter how hard it gets or how many doubts we have, we need to remember that experience on the mountain. We need to remember when we experienced Jesus for who Jesus really is. We need to remember when we knew, in our guts, that this was God with us.
The Transfiguration served as a kind of gut check for the early church where they could tap into their inmost being and remember their experience with Jesus the Christ. They could feel it in their guts, that unmistakable knowing that something has happened within us and this something is sacred.
Teresa of Avila in her autobiography expresses a similar feeling when she describes a vision she had of an angel piercing her heart:
It seemed to me this angel plunged the dart several times into my heart and that it reached deep within me. When he drew it out, I thought he was carrying off with him the deepest part of me; and he left me all on fire with great love of God.
Teresa uses the phrase “deep within me”. In Spanish, the words “la extrañas” is used – the entrails, the innards, the bowels, the guts. Here in “la extrañas,” a person knows that they have met God intimately.
The story of the Transfiguration reminded the early church to dig deep, to plunge into their “entrañas”, to their experience of God when everything around them was denying their experience. The Transfiguration reminded them that truly they have seen God.
Today on this feast of the Transfiguration, we, the disciples and seekers of today, are likewise called not just to celebrate the revelation of Jesus as Messiah. But we are called to perform our own gut check and to draw courage, energy, and determination from our experience with God.
This is no simple “what would Jesus do?” gut check.
It means to enter into the sacred presence of God. To walk with God. To engage with God in the unfolding of our lives and in the current realities of our time. And then to let that experience with God inform, encourage, energize – and perhaps even “transfigure” our lives.
 See John L. McKenzie, SJ, “The Gospel According to Matthew” in The Jerome Biblical Commentary 43:18
 Luke 1:68
 Teresa of Avila, The Life, 29:13
Julie Vieira, IHM
Julie Vieira, IHM
Julie Vieira, IHM, MA, (she/her) is a writer, presenter, and thinker in spirituality with particular attentiveness to living the darkness and light — the poetry and rough prose — of everyday life. She holds a Master of Arts in Theology from St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. She currently serves as the director of the Margaret Brennan Institute and as a volunteer crisis counselor for LGBTQ+ youth. Her most recent publication is the essay “O Radiant Dawn” on mysticism and the future of religious life for The Occasional Papers: A publication of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (Summer 2023). Her next presentation is “Teresa of Avila, the Writer: A Workshop to Inspire Your Inner Artist and Activist” in October 2023. Visit julievieira.org.