Transfiguration of the Lord – 2017
Dan.7:9-10, 13-14 / 2Pt.1:16-19 / Lk.9:28-36
The word “new” is an attractive and exciting word. When it is applied to things, e.g., new house, new office, new computer, it gives a feeling of a new beginning without the limitations of the old settings.
When it is applied to persons, e.g., new boss, new president, new priest, then it’s going to be a process of discovering and adjusting to the new attitudes and styles of new person at the helm.
But as with time and tide, all things new will also become old, or familiar, or gotten used to, or just loose its shine and sparkle.
When Jesus began His ministry, and called His disciples to follow Him, He was seen as an exciting and attractive “item” by His disciples and the people following Him. But as time went by, His disciples also slowly got used to Him and He lost His “shine” for them.
But in the Transfiguration, Jesus showed His glory, but it was not meant to bring back the shine or the attention. It was a profound moment of proclamation and revelation as Jesus reveals again to Peter, James and John His true identity.
Jesus did not lose His “shine”; rather it was the disciples who may have thought they knew everything about Jesus and was beginning to take Him for granted. But for us, the Transfiguration is also a reminder of who we really are – we are the beloved children of God.
No one can ever take that “shine” from us. Yet, we may just take ourselves for granted and lose that “shine” altogether.
It’s rare that the vestment of the priest is not green on a Sunday during Ordinary Time. But August 6th is the date of the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor.
This fourth of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary is so important for understanding our faith in Jesus Christ that the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time will not be celebrated this year.
In today’s account of the Transfiguration, we have a miniature of the entire Gospel, and a miniature of the manner in which God has always made His Divine Revelation known.
God, like any loving parent, wants us to share in His love, but at the same time He wants us to enter into that love as freely as possible. In other words, God wants us to come to Him of our own accord, because the more freely we come to Him, the more we grow in His love.
But as a loving parent, God knows we are often weak and need His help. God gave us an intellect by which we could think of our own reason that God exists, that He loves us, and that He wants us to imitate that love.
God also gave us a free will by which to imitate Him. Our human intellect and will are often very weak, however, and so God constantly gives us signs of His presence, in order to remind us of Who God is and how much He loves us.
God did not have to inspire the human authors of Sacred Scripture, but He did so in order to give us a record of His love. God did not have to choose twelve men to be his apostles, in order to share the Sacraments of His love.
But He did so to strengthen us in this earthly life of ours, because we face so many setbacks, failures, and disappointments. God the Son was transfigured before the eyes of these three apostles not simply so that they could say, “How good it is for us to be here.”
The Transfiguration occurred so that the apostles would hear God the Father’s voice, who says, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” And coming down the mountain, Jesus says what? He points their attention ahead to the Cross, to His death.
What a grace for Peter and James and John to see Jesus transfigured. They got a preview of the glory of Jesus risen from the dead and his glory in heaven. It was also a preview of the glory we all hope to share in heaven.
This was a very special grace for Peter and James and John. It was not the only special grace Jesus shared with Peter, James and John.
Earlier in the Gospel (Mark and Luke) we read that Jesus only allowed Peter and James and John with him into the house of the synagogue official whose daughter he raised up again (Mk.5:37; Lk.8:51).
Later, when Jesus was teaching in the temple, Peter and James and John asked Jesus a question privately and he gave them more teaching (Mk.13:3). In Gethsemane, Jesus took Peter, James and John aside from the others to be near him during his agony (Mk.14:33).
So, Peter, James and John received many special graces from Jesus. Moses and Elijah also appeared and spoke with Jesus. Moses received the Law from God on Mount Sinai and Elijah could be regarded as the greatest of the prophets, certainly here he is a representative of the prophets during Jesus’ transfiguration.
So, we have the Law and the Prophets, as the Old Testament was often called, with Jesus on the mountain. The Old Testament was pointing forward to Jesus as we heard in that beautiful prophecy of Jesus in our first reading.
Now two great figures of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, appeared on the mountain with Jesus transfigured, to confirm that Jesus is indeed the expected Messiah. The Father spoke from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
So, the Old Testament and the Father in heaven are now confirming that Jesus is indeed the expected Messiah. Although Jesus had just shocked them by telling them he must suffer and die, this is, in fact, the plan of God for Jesus.
The Father said, “Listen to him.” In other words, “Do not be scandalized at the teaching of my son Jesus about his forthcoming Passion, death and resurrection.” As our preface today says, “He revealed his glory to his disciples to strengthen them for the scandal of the cross.”
Will they listen to Jesus? Will they stand by Jesus as he goes to his Passion and death? We know what happened later. Perhaps we are disappointed that Peter and James did not listen to Jesus, did not remain faithful to Jesus, during the time he most needed them.
They had seen Jesus transfigured, they heard the command of the Father to listen to Jesus, they had been with Jesus for other intimate moments like the raising of the girl to life again but they were scandalized by the Passion of Jesus.
But why should we be disappointed with them? We also have experienced and met Jesus in many ways and sometimes we too let him down. We meet Jesus in a most intimate way every time we receive him in the Eucharist. It is the time when we are closest to Jesus.
As we celebrate the feast of transfiguration of our Lord, we also should have great desire to behold the glory of the Lord. The first step to have this vision of the glory of God is to allow ourselves to be transformed from egoistic to altruistic, unloving to loving, and ever forgiving and forgetting.
If we are transformed on earth, we will be glorified in heaven with the vision of the glory of God. We should leave the path of sin, turn to God and let ourselves be transformed into the image of Jesus through his grace in us. Amen.