The Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
- Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
- Psalm 97:1-2, 5-6, 9
- 2 Peter 1:16-19
- Matthew 17:1-9
As has so often been said, Apocalyptic literature was written to give encouragement to those who found themselves at the very bottom of human existence. The first reading from the Book of Daniel, in highly symbolic language, speaks of an all-powerful God who is in complete control, “thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him.” That power was not so absolute, though, that it could not be shared, and when “one like a Son of man” arrives on the scene the Ancient One shares his power with him, and the Son of Man’s dominion became “an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.” This Apocalyptic vision was meant to give exiled Jews hope, and for those who are called Christian it was meant to foreshadow the reign of God inaugurated by God’s Son, Jesus of Nazareth.
The friends of Jesus, Apostles, who traveled with him up the high mountain in Matthew, were, like the Jews in Babylon, in need of some encouragement. Jesus had just shared with them that He must go to Jerusalem, and there he will “suffer greatly” and be “put to death.” When Peter protested about that happening, Jesus called him “Satan,” and ordered him not to stand in the way. The apostles were no doubt ready for a break from all the “taking-up-your-cross” talk, and were happy to just be alone with Jesus in a secluded place. It is then that the Transfiguration happened. Not only was Jesus transformed, looking more like the Ancient One from Daniel than that carpenter from Nazareth, but Moses and Elijah were there as well. The Apostles were able to see through the humanity that was all too obvious to them and recognize the blinding light that could only come from God. It wasn’t that frightening a scene until that voice came from the heavens: “This is my beloved Son… listen to him.”
In spite of their fears, the Apostles had to be grateful for that glimpse of who Jesus truly was. Although they had heard Jesus teach so often, only now could they see where His authority to preach actually came from. Now they were convinced of that special relationship that existed between Jesus and His Father. Now they were emboldened to walk with Him on that journey to Jerusalem.
For us who desire to journey with Jesus some two thousand years after the Transfiguration, the gospel story is also a source of hope. In the Transfiguration we not only catch a glimpse of Jesus’ divinity, but we also catch a glimpse of what we are called to become, what humanity was created to be. While the Apostles no doubt wanted a God who was clothed with majesty and who could change everything for the better, they instead got a God who was clothed with humanity, although a humanity infused with the divine light capable of transforming everything. Jesus’ transfiguration showed us “what every human being can become when open to transforming love” (Sr. Mary McGlone).
In the Sacrament of the Eucharist, we experience a Transfiguration when ordinary elements of bread and wine are transformed into the very Body and Blood of the Lord. Our communion with that Lord is, in turn, meant to transform us if we are open to the “transforming love” of God. Like Jesus on Tabor, in spite of our humanity, we are designed to shine with the beauty of God’s love. Indeed, we shine with a light capable of illuminating the darkest of places, a light capable of truly transforming the world in which we live. As followers of Jesus we have more potential for redemptive glory than we could ever possibly imagine. No matter where we may find ourselves, in good times and in bad, may we always remain open to the transforming love of a generous and forgiving God.