How large is our universe? In his children’s book, Is the Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is?, author Robert Wells tries to help young people begin to understand this concept. The blue whale is the largest animal on earth, but it isn’t anywhere near the size of a mountain, and, says Mr. Wells, a hollowed-out Mount Everest could hold many millions of such whales. A mountain, however, is nowhere near the size of the earth; a hundred mountains stacked on top of each other would, from the vantage point of space, appear like nothing more than a whisker on the earth’s surface. The earth itself is very tiny compared to the sun; the sun is large enough to hold a million earths inside itself. However, Mr. Wells notes that as huge as the sun is, it’s insignificant compared to a red supergiant star called Antares, which is large enough to hold fifty million of our suns. Antares, however, is just one of billions of stars, along with countless comets and asteroids, that make up our Milky Way galaxy, whose size and complexity is almost impossible for us to imagine. Even so, the Milky Way is just one of many billions of galaxies in the entire universe—and the distances from one galaxy to another are almost too great for us to imagine (Craig Brian Larson, 750 Engaging Illustrations, p. 266). All of this, of course, was created by God—and He is infinitely greater than His creation.
God’s glory is unimaginable—and yet, sometimes people like to glorify themselves for their relatively puny, unimportant achievements. One of the greatest and most egotistical kings in history was Louis XIV of France, who reigned for over fifty years. Because of the brilliance of his court at the magnificent palace of Versailles, he was known as the Sun King, and he even referred to himself as “the Great.” When Louis XIV died in 1715, he was placed in a solid gold casket, and arrangements were made for a spectacular funeral. To dramatize the glory of his reign, orders had been given that the cathedral be kept in shadows and darkness, with only one candle burning brightly at Louis’ coffin as a representation of his earthly glory. Thousands of courtiers and subjects waited in silence for the presiding Archbishop to speak, expecting him to praise the greatness of the Sun King. To their surprise, however, the Archbishop bent down, blew out the candle, and proclaimed, “Only God is great!” (Michael Green, 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, p. 168). We must never make the mistake of comparing ourselves to God; not only is He infinitely greater than us, but everything we are, and everything we achieve, is only possible through His grace. God’s glory is infinite, but so is His love for us—and if we try to live as His children, He promises that one day we shall see Him face to face.
The apostles knew Jesus in a human way. Because of His miracles and great holiness, they knew He was God’s Chosen One, but they didn’t yet understand the fullness of His identity. Therefore, the Lord took Peter, James, and John to the top of Mount Tabor, where He was transfigured in their presence; for a brief moment, His divine glory shown through His humanity. This vision was intended to reassure and encourage them during His coming Passion, when in His suffering and misery, He would appear to be the most despised and pitiable of men, a man of suffering lacking any shred of power or glory. St. Peter writes that at the Lord’s Transfiguration he and the others were eyewitnesses of His majesty. Jesus wasn’t “showing off,” but demonstrating His love for the world. God the Father told the apostles to listen to His Son—for only in this way would they be able to receive the Good News of salvation that leads to eternal life.
Heaven is filled with the glory of God, and all the citizens of God’s Kingdom to some degree share in His glory and divine life. For this destiny to be ours, however, we must try to believe in and rejoice in God’s glory while here on earth. This means three things in particular. First of all, we need to trust and remember that the Lord is far greater than we can even begin to comprehend—which means that He is infinitely greater than all the forces of evil at work in the world, and more than capable of helping us in our struggles and responding to all our deepest needs. Satan, as powerful and dangerous as he is, is like an insignificant and impotent speck of dust compared to Almighty God, and all the problems and worries and frustrations of life cannot separate us from the Lord’s love or keep us from one day living and rejoicing in His glorious Presence. The more we keep this greater perspective in mind, the more we will be secure, happy, and blessed.
Secondly, we must be witnesses of God’s glory—which we do primarily by our own example of love and mercy. Treating everyone with kindness and respect, insisting on the value and dignity of each human life, and forgiving all those who sin against us, are all very practical and important ways of reminding those around us that God exists, that He is good, loving, and trustworthy, and that He is eager to share Himself with His people. The Lord is fully and perfectly content in and of Himself, and He doesn’t need us—but He freely chooses to share Himself with all who open their hearts to Him. Living as true followers of Jesus helps testify to the truth of God’s glory, and makes it easier for others to believe in and accept His love in their own lives.
Thirdly, we must be profoundly humble in God’s presence—which includes thanking Him for the blessings we’ve received, despite our unworthiness; seeking to know and do His Will in all things, for He can arrange and direct our lives far better than we ever could; and conducting ourselves reverently here in His Eucharistic Presence in church, particularly by receiving Holy Communion with the greatest possible piety and gratitude, and only while in a state of grace. The more we humble ourselves in the Lord’s sight, the happier He is to bless us and fill us with His light and peace.
King Louis XIV’s magnificent palace of Versailles is as nothing compared to the beauty of the earth, but even the majesty of all God’s creation pales in comparison to the greatness and glory of the Creator. The Feast of the Transfiguration reminds us that God doesn’t just dwell in Heaven; He is also here among us on earth—and the more we open our hearts to His Presence, the more we can be sure of one day sharing in His glory.