THE TRANSFORMING PRESENCE OF CHRIST
In the feast of the Transfiguration, the Church both commemorates the event of the Lord’s Transfiguration and shows us the way to our own transfiguration. The readings today invite us to work with the Holy Spirit to transform our lives by renewing them, and to radiate the grace of the transfigured Lord around us by our Spirit-filled lives. The Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain reminds us that the way of the cross leads to Resurrection and eternal life.
Jesus on three occasions told his disciples that he would undergo suffering and death on a cross to fulfill the mission the Father gave him. As the time drew near for Jesus' ultimate sacrifice on the cross, he takes three of his beloved disciples to the top of a high mountain. Just as Moses and Elijah were led to the mountain of God to discern their ultimate call and mission, so Jesus now appears with Moses and Elijah on the highest mountain overlooking the summit of the promised land. Matthew's Gospel tells us that Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light (Matthew 17:2).
The disciples received a preview of the glorious figure Jesus would become at Easter and beyond. While praying, Jesus was transfigured into a shining figure, full of Heavenly glory. This reminds us of Moses and Elijah who also experienced the Lord in all His glory. Moses had met the Lord in the burning bush at Mount Horeb (Exodus 3:1-4). After his later encounter with God, Moses' face shone so brightly that it frightened the people, and Moses had to wear a veil over his face (Exodus 34:29-35). The luminosity of the face of Moses is also meant to signal the invasion of God. The Jews believed that Moses was taken up in a cloud at end of his earthly life (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4. 326).
Elijah had traveled for forty days to Mt. Horeb on the strength of the food brought by an angel (1 Kings 19:8). At Mt. Horeb, Elijah sought refuge in a cave as the glory of the Lord passed over him (1 Kings 19:9-18). Finally, Elijah was taken directly to Heaven in a chariot of fire without experiencing death (2 Kings 2:11-15). In addition, “Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt, received the Torah on Mount Sinai and brought God’s people to the edge of the Promised Land. Elijah, the great prophet in northern Israel during the ninth century B.C., performed healing and other miracles and stood up to Israel’s external enemies and the wicked within Israel. Their presence in Matthew’s transfiguration account emphasizes Jesus’ continuity with the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah) in salvation history.”(Fr. Harrington S. J.)
These representatives of the Law and the Prophets, foreshadowed Jesus who is the culmination of the Law and the Prophets. Both prophets were initially rejected by the people but were vindicated by God. The Jews believed that these men did not die because God Himself took Moses (Dt 34:5-6), and Elijah was carried to heaven in a whirlwind (II Kgs 2:11). So the implication is that although God spared Moses and Elijah from the normal process of death, He did not spare His Son.
The primary purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration was to consult his Heavenly Father in order to ascertain His plan for Our Lord’s suffering, death and Resurrection. The secondary aim was to make Jesus’ chosen disciples aware of His Divine glory, so that they might discard their worldly ambitions about a conquering political Messiah. A third purpose was to strengthen their Faith and hope and to encourage them to persevere through the future ordeal.
The Lord Jesus not only wants us to see his glory - he wants to share this glory with us. And Jesus shows us the way to the Father's glory - follow me - obey my words. Take the path I have chosen for you and you will receive the blessing of my Father's kingdom - your name, too, will be written in heaven. Jesus fulfilled his mission on Calvary where he died for our sins so that Paradise and everlasting life would be restored to us. He embraced the cross to win a crown of glory - a crown that awaits each one of us, if we, too, will follow in his footsteps.
- The Catholic Church teaches that "what is last in execution is first in intention". The passion, death and resurrection of Christ had always been in the original plan of God from the inception of the world. God owns the initiative at all times.
- Like Abraham we need faith to faithfully follow God.
- Each Sacrament that we receive transforms us. Baptism, for example, transforms us into sons and daughters of God and heirs of heaven. Confirmation makes us the temples of the Holy Spirit. By the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God brings back the sinner to the path of holiness. By receiving in Faith the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, we are spiritually, and if God wills physically, healed and our sins are forgiven.
- We cannot outdo God in generousity. Learn to trust God and have absolute dependence on Him. The world unfortunately preaches humanism, and strives to relegate God to the background in the affairs of men.
- We need to constantly strive to live a life worthy of our Christian vocation; a life of holiness, without which no one can see God.
- Jesus took the disciples up the mountain to reassure them of the bright promise of eternal life. The reality of the cross ought not to be a scandal and an obstacle to their faith, but instead it should serve as a spiritual boost in their lives.
- The transfiguration experience is an invitation to have a glimpse of heaven and hence desire to enter it. The Lord wants to reveal his glory to us, his beloved disciples. Do you seek his presence with faith and reverence?
- The need for transformation is urgent today. There is clear loss of values in our world and in the society. Many Christians are more interested in the things of the world. We cannot serve two masters for we either love one or hate the other. Do not be mastered and modeled by the things of the world, but let your nature be thus transformed.
- There must be a concerted effort to drop vice and imbibe virtues. The seven capital sins must be expunged while making stringent effort to cultivate the virtues. Anger, Lust, Envy, Pride, Covetousness, Sloth, Gluttony (Vices) must be replaced with Meekness, Chastity, Brotherly love, Humility, Temperance, Due diligence and generousity. We need to allow Jesus to transform us so that we can become "another Christ".
- We need these 'mountain-top’ experiences in our own lives. We can share experiences like those of Peter, James and John when we spend some extra time in prayer, especially making frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament.
A voice from the cloud said, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him. I am manifested through his preaching. I am glorified through his humility. So listen to him without hesitation. He is the truth and the life. He is my strength and wisdom. "Listen to him" whom the mysteries of the law foreshadowed, of whom the mouths of the prophets sang. "Listen to him" who by his blood redeemed the world, who binds the devil and seizes his vessels, who breaks the debt of sin and the bondage of iniquity. "Listen to him" who opens the way to heaven and by the pain of the cross prepares for you the steps of ascent into his kingdom." (excerpt from Sermon 38,7 by Leo the Great)
Prayer - Open our hearts to the voice of your Word and free us from the original darkness that shadows our vision. Restore our sight that we may look upon your Son who calls us to repentance and change of heart. Amen!!!