Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, which commemorates one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring events in Scripture. Jesus is on Mt. Tabor with Peter, James, and John. Suddenly his appearance changes entirely and he is radiant with divine glory. Two heavenly representatives join him in conversation, Moses and Elijah. In addition, the voice of the Father speaks from within a bright cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The disciples fall prostrate in fear upon hearing the voice of God.
The awesome spectacle disappears as quickly as it came. When Jesus touches the disciples and they raise their eyes, they find themselves once again alone with him. Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets, have disappeared. Jesus is the One for whom these pillars of the Old Testament prepared and to whom they pointed; he is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. The Father tells us to “listen to him” because Jesus is the centerpiece of the whole history of divine revelation. Christ’s Transfiguration reveals his divinity in an extraordinary way, and, like at his baptism, the Father announces that he is his “beloved Son.”
The first reading draws from the rich heritage of the Law and the Prophets. It is the prophet Daniel’s account of a vision of heavenly glory, a vision he was given in order to comfort and strengthen the Jews who were suffering from a terrible persecution. Daniel sees an exalted figure, “the Ancient One,” shining in brilliant light and seated on a throne. Then he sees another figure, “One like a Son of man,” who shares in the divine splendor and power. In Daniel’s vision, the “Son of man” refers to the one who brings salvation to the world – clearly a prophecy of the coming Messiah. This reading is a striking foreshadowing of the revelation to be given in the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, where the glory of God the Father and the unique position of his Beloved Son will be made manifest.
In the second reading, St. Peter writes about his personal experience on Mt. Tabor. Against charges that the divinity of Christ was merely a later invention of the Christian believers, Peter attests to having been an eyewitness to the Transfiguration. It is not a “cleverly devised myth,” but a prophetic message that is “altogether reliable.” Peter, speaking as one of the “eyewitnesses of his sovereign majesty,” confidently proclaims “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The three disciples “were with him on the holy mountain.” Their proclamation of the message is not a myth but an unforgettable experience of Christ’s divinity.
By displaying his true glory to Peter, James, and John, Jesus reassures them that despite the agony to come, with all its apparent negation of divine power and glory, he is still indeed “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” – just as Peter had declared six days earlier (Mt 16:16). At that time, Jesus assured Peter that he had received that knowledge directly from his heavenly Father. Now the Father has confirmed it with his own voice. Jesus, knowing that he is on his way to the Cross, for a brief moment allows divine light to shine through him. Before embarking on his sorrowful journey to Calvary, he allows his future victorious glory to appear, to strengthen and encourage his disciples.
In the same way, the enduring effect of the Transfiguration for us is that it strengthens our faith. We, the faithful, are walking an arduous path and we need a clear sense of the goal of our journey. No matter what suffering we are going through, or will go through, we hold fast to the truth that we are destined for eternal life in Heaven. Even though we live and move within the confines of this world, we are not meant, finally, for this world. We are summoned to life on high with God. The Transfiguration of Jesus awakens our sense of wonder and gives us courage to face the challenges of life in this world. If we are faithful, a day will come when “the morning star” will rise in our hearts, and we too will be transfigured in glory.
What are some of the experiences in life that the Lord has given me for comfort and strength? Like Peter, how do I proclaim the divinity and majesty of the Lord? How often do I ponder on the reality that I am destined for eternal life in Heaven?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 19, no. 6. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.