Imagine a surprising invitation from a new friend to meet him at the lake before dawn one morning. This person has an ironic sense of humour and shares many of your interests. His questions about your life shed new light on things that you had not previously considered but also make you aspire to something greater. While some discussions focus on you, he invites you into other conversations about issues of the whole world. He seems holy and wise without being intimidating. You enjoy being around him.  You’re not the only one. Others are drawn to him. But he seems to manage to make each person feel special.

Nevertheless, the invitation to the beach at this hour feels a bit strange. Something that makes it more mysterious is that he said there are some others he wants you to meet. So, coffee in hand, you make your way, a bit groggily, to the shore in the grey pre-dawn and, through a morning mist, see your friend standing near the water’s edge. A few dog-walkers are at a distance, but you don’t see anyone with him. He is standing alone and still, facing the east.

When you reach the beach you recognize Pete and Julie, two others you have met recently through a refugee sponsorship coming from a different direction. You wonder if these are the people you’re to meet. You know they, too, enjoy your friend’s company but why here? Why now? A smile lights your friend’s face as he hears the three of you and he waves. When you come together Julie bumps up against you in a welcoming gesture and Pete nods and smiles. The atmosphere is friendly but with a hint of the mysterious.


As you chat, you notice two others, a bald man wearing overalls and a wiry, older woman in a jean dress and sweater, approaching out of the fog. They are wrapped in conversation. Their words carry surprisingly clearly even at a distance. The male says the world’s problems are so large that he must pray with all his might that God will fix them, because no one else can. The woman, on the other hand, smiles, shakes her head and says that God put her in a particular place at a particular time so she could do his particular work. They regard each other with affection, as though their argument is part theatre which they have performed before.

When they notice your friend, they wave and pick up their pace as he goes to welcome them. The two newcomers look strangely familiar but you can’t place them.

As they draw nearer your friend greets them as Tom and Dorothy. They nod to us as though he is saying something about us, but they continue talking with our mutual friend …not deliberately ignoring us as needing a briefing before meeting us. Their overheard conversation is about war, refugees, poverty, disease, the environment and faith…and what they might do to address the issues.

At that moment the rising sun breaks through the morning mist and envelops the three people in a blinding light and an overwhelming sense that this is why the new friend invited Pete, Julie and you to be here. Their concerns are majestic, cosmic, holy and they want us to share them.


With a start you realize that this conversation you are witnessing is impossible. "Tom" is Thomas Merton the author of Seven Story Mountain, Sign of Jonas, contemplative Trappist monk, and anti-war and anti-racist writer. He died in 1968. "Dorothy" is Dorothy Day, the anti-poverty and anti-war activist, writer, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, who died in 1980. They look familiar because you’ve seen their photos on book covers.

You look at Pete and Julie and they, too, have recognized that this startling meeting with its large themes cannot be happening…but is.

In an attempt to capture the opportunity to meet Tom and Dorothy and to figure out what is going on, you say, “Let’s go to one of the park benches and I’ll go get coffee, tea or hot chocolate.” Pete and Julie nod. 

But when you look back, only your friend is there. You look for Tom and Dorothy but they are nowhere to be seen. Still, you are left with an overwhelming sense that your friend’s talk with Tom and Dorothy was much more than friendly conversation but that part of an enduring dialogue with them…and each of you about your roles in society.

And you are left, not so much wondering “who is he?” as, “can this be happening to me?”.


Sunday August 6th’s gospel is Luke’s version of the Transfiguration. The gospel for this Sunday begins,

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.

And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.

Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.

Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.

Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’

When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.


One message of the transfiguration is that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promises made to the saints of old. He is God with Us, even if he was not always recognized as such, even by his closest friends. He is still God with Us, today.

What unites the saints of the Old Testament, Christ and recent saints is their concern that the world we each live in should be organized around the two great commandments of love of God and neighbour. In a sense this is a story about commissioning the leaders of the new Israel in the presence of the former leaders.

These concerns are not for the saints only, but for each of us as followers of Christ.


  • This reimagining of the Transfiguration used Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, whom I would love to put together and quiz about their different approaches to God’s commandments. If you were to create your version, what people, dead or alive, would you insert into your story? Teilhard de Chardin? Elizabeth Seaton? Dietrich Bonhoeffer? Simone Weil? Michael Bedford Jones?
  • Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus speaks about not being recognized but about “whatever you do to the least you do to me….” (Matt 25:40) Could the transfiguration be read as a demonstration of Jesus’ relationship with God the Father and the saints of old, out of frustration that even his closest friends did not see? Do you look for Christ in everyone you see?
  • Jesus’ transfiguration and the words of his father did not transform the three disciples who witnessed it. (Peter would deny him. John would run away in Gethsemane.) Was it because they needed the Holy Spirit to integrate it into their understanding of Jesus as the Christ?