“This is my beloved Son . . . Listen to Him.”
With his companions, the apostles, Jesus experiences his Transfiguration, the revelation of his glory as the Son of God.
With his promises to Abram in today’s First Reading, God formed the people through whom He would reveal himself and bestow His blessings on all humanity.
He later elevated these promises to eternal covenants and changed Abram’s name to Abraham, promising that he would be father of a host nations (Gen. 17:5). In remembrance of His covenant with Abraham he raised up Moses (Ex. 2:24; 3:8), and later swore an everlasting kingdom to David ‘s sons (see Jeremiah 33:26).
I want to explore with you today something of what the early Church understood about the Transfiguration.
In Jesus’ Transfiguration He is revealed as the One through whom God fulfills his divine plan from the very beginning.
Today’s Gospel portrays Jesus as a new Moses – The one who leads his people to salvation. Moses also took three companions up a mountain and on the seventh day was overshadowed by the shining cloud of God’s presence. He too spoke with God and his face and clothing were made radiant in the encounter (see Exodus 24,34).
Chiesa di San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome
The revelation to the apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration reveals to us what creation is and who Jesus is, beyond what we can know by reason, logic and science (as important as these are.) Nature and science reveal to us the “how” and the “what” of creation and in a complementary way God chooses to reveal the “why” through revelation and supremely in the revelation of who Jesus is.
BTW - It is interesting to note that the "Big Bang" theory was first developed by a Jesuit priest and was rejected by the Soviet Union. This is a theory about creation based upon scientific observation and logic. Science is not in conflict with faith, the two complement one another.
The Transfiguration of Jesus is a promise that we will all be transfigured, as the Lord Himself was transfigured, when our redemption is complete in the Resurrection of the Body. We will move beyond the created order into God’s Kingdom – a transformed cosmos! This reality is meant to affect the way we live our lives in this world.
From the earliest centuries, the Christian Church has emphasized the centrality of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our experience of our own life in the Lord through His Body – the Church – is the beginning of what is to come in His kingdom.
|11th century icon of the Transfiguration, Cologne, Germany|
The Church, in the words of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, is a sign and seed of the kingdom to come. Our life within the Church is a real participation in the eternal realities of life, a new heaven and a new earth begins in the here and now.
This event on the Mountain was meant to strengthen the faith of these three apostles. They were about to witness the events that would lead their Lord and Master along what would appear to be an ignominious path, up Golgotha’s lonely hill, to be crucified, a fate reserved for common criminals.
Their own faith would be shaken, tested and tried. He loved all who were His own in this world (John 13:1). However, this One who came from eternity and took upon Himself the limitations of time, was about to open the portal of eternity to all of us who are being re-created in Him.
Jesus was revealing who He was - and who they would become in Him. He was revealing to them that he was linked with the whole of creation and the entire revelation of God, the Holy Trinity back through the history of salvation as revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures and the lives of Moses and Elijah.
|Icon in Yaroslavl, Russia, A.D. 1516|
As they lived their lives no longer for themselves but for Him the apostles began to undergo their own trials and walked the way to their own transfiguration. This is meant to become the path for all of us who bear His name.
We entered through the waters of the womb of Holy Baptism into the life of the Church which is His Body. We are members of His Body now and through the Sacraments and our participation in the life of grace, he communicates His energy, His Divine Life and his transfiguring grace.
Peter would later write of this extraordinary experience. He reminded the early Christians, already dispersed because of persecution,
"For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love."
Peter told them, "We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, ‘This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain." (2 Peter 1)
So we go forth as we: “Listen to Him!”
[ ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The Christian life is meant to be a real participation in the Divine Nature, every day. We are being transfigured in Christ, even now, as we follow Him. This transfiguration will only be complete when the entire person, including the body, is fully redeemed and transformed.
In fact, the effects of the transfiguration involve the entire created order; it too will finally be reconstituted in Jesus Christ and handed back to the Father. The followers of Jesus, the Transfigured One - you and me - now walk in His Way and are being transformed into His likeness.
The Beloved Disciple John used this event of the Transfiguration as a hermeneutic, a lens, through which he gave early Christians a deeper insight into their difficulties, struggles and mission. In his first letter to the early Churches, John encouraged them to persevere and live differently by referring to the event that occurred on the Holy Mountain.
He encouraged them to not be surprised or discouraged that the world did not recognize them, but rather to persevere in love, holding the vision of a transfigured life before them:
"See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure." (1 John 3)
The Lord Jesus has shown us the way up the mountain. He has invited us into a new way of living in Him by living within the communion of the Church, living in the Catholic Church we are invited to go into the world to invite all men and women, through the waters of Baptism, into the communion of love and begin the process of conversion and transfiguration.
Born again, we are all invited to join with Peter, James and John and cry out today: "It is good for us to be here."
As we reflect on the Transfiguration of Jesus in the days to come we enter more deeply into the mystery it reveals by living in the Transfiguration now. It truly is good for us to be here.
We draw encouragement and inspiration from the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ and respond to the invitations of grace in our daily lives in order to grow more fully into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord revealing His Transfigured glory to a world waiting to be born anew, born from above.]
Genesis 12:1-4; Psalm 33:4-5,18-20, 22 2; Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9
Father John L. Hodgins