In the narrative of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on the mountain, we hear that Jesus took with him three Apostles to witness his glory, even before the angels in heaven saw it. (Matthew 17:1-2).
Pondering this event raises two questions. First why only three apostle and not all twelve and secondly, why these three?
In answer to the first Jesus wanted to set an example for his Church on earth to follow. He took the Apostles with him in order that the highest of the sacred mysteries would not be revealed to all at once, but to certain chosen superiors who with the authority of Jesus Christ, would pass on the faith to those gathered. It happened at the Transfiguration and at the feeding of the five thousand, where it was not Christ that handed out the loaves and fishes but the Apostles.
Jesus also gave authority to Peter when he handed him the keys of heaven (Matthew 16:19). So all teaching, all authority comes to us from Jesus through Peter and his successors today in the Holy See.
Why Peter, James and John? The answer is love. Peter loved Jesus more than any of the other Apostles and though he faltered in his faith by denying Christ three times, later he repented, turned back to Christ (John 21:15). The Apostle John is frequently referred to as the ‘beloved’ and at the moment of his death on Calvary, Jesus entrusted his mother Mary to the care of John, the only one of the twelve to remain at the foot of the cross. James was to demonstrate his love by being the first of the Apostles to die as a martyr to Christ.
What do we learn from this? First, we should listen to the voice of our Pope and Bishops when they teach us the faith. Listening is not a passive action, it comes from the Latin obedire, meaning “obey, be subject, serve; pay attention to, give ear.” Furthermore, be aware that to be chosen by Christ will mean giving sacrifice in order to serve him and to complete the mission he has for each one of us.