Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord – Year A

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14;
2 Peter 1:16-19:
Matthew 17:1-9

6 August 2017


A certain man took a woman work colleague for a meal a number of times and having spent some time with her on different occasions he realized that he would like to marry her. He broached the question of marriage a number of times but she herself didn’t think he was the one for her.  Then one day having agreed to meet for an afternoon snack she suddenly saw him in a completely different light.  It was as if he were transfigured before her very eyes. Eventually they did marry and are still together after 29 years of marriage and three children.

On this day we celebrate the Transfiguration of Our Lord, a foreshadowing of his glorious resurrection and a hint that awaits all who surrender to the Father’s will as Jesus did.

In the gospel today we hear how Jesus was transfigured or transformed.  In the passage just prior to this Jesus explains that those who follow him will have trials and sufferings.  Also the three disciples whom he took with him up the mountain are the same three ones who will be with him in the garden of Gethsemene.  In the Transfiguration scene Jesus wants them to see his glory so that later when he suffers and dies on the cross they might recall his being transfigured so that they might not be overwhelmed by his apparent failure and shameful death. He was preparing them for what was to come. He is also reminding them and each one of us that we too will be transfigured if we try our best to do God’s will.

We know that in his gospel St. John says that eternal life is now.  So the process of Transfiguration begins here on this earth and we all know people and hopefully our own experience bears it out that transformation is possible now.  For example a certain man was an alcoholic and through the support of his family and friends he eventually went to Alcoholic’s Anonymous.  Now, many years later he has overcome his drink problem and as we say, he is a new man.  In another case a couple who had been married for a number of years decided to divorce because their marriage was almost finished.  Friends encouraged them to go to a marriage counsellor and as a result they are now enjoying a happy marriage. 

Isn’t it obvious from the examples we have given that we need the help and encouragement of others to change?  In the gospel account today it is Jesus who takes the initiative.  He takes them up a mountain to be alone. Very often it is when we take time apart or alone with Jesus in prayer and if we can be silent and listen we will surely hear him telling us how great we are. He tells us what the possibilities are for change in our lives and the promise of his help, when he gives the powerful Holy Spirit for us to be able to achieve this.  He doesn’t promise that it will be easy.  In fact, usually growth is a demanding and challenging process. 

Moses and Elijah who appear with Jesus represent the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament reminding us God is a God who is always faithful to his people who told them that they would enter the Promised Land, that they would no longer be slaves in Egypt.  That would be one way in which they would be transformed or transfigured as a people.  God through Jesus is offering us the same freedom from whatever slavery or slaveries that affect our lives.  God wants us transformed or transfigured on all levels, be it spiritually or psychologically or indeed physically.  But we must respond to his ways.  Just as Jesus took the three disciples up the mountain, we must allow Jesus to transfigure us.  We may have to let go of certain prejudices or a refusal to forgive etc.  If we ask Jesus with a desire to be changed he will bring it about.  His only desire is for our freedom, peace and happiness now.

Peter, of course, was so overcome by his experience of the transfiguration of Jesus that he wanted to stay on the mountain forever so that he could rest always in the experience.  But Jesus told him of the need to go back down the mountain to enter the reality of daily living.  Now armed with the experience he could face difficulties and suffering knowing what was possible. Peter speaks of his mountaintop experience in the second reading.

We can be like this too.  We may have had a good experience in prayer or feel God very close and want to hold on to them.  But they are always given to us to help us be of greater service to others.  God’s gifts to us are always for sharing.

Finally, the voice of Jesus’ Father from the cloud is of great importance for us.  ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him’.  It is a confirmation to the three of who Jesus is.  It is also an invitation to each of us to listen more to Jesus.  This is a gift we need to pray for often.

‘Heavenly Father, help us to listen more often to Jesus, to hear what he wishes to reveal to us. Help us to realise too that you can transfigure us also as you did Jesus, if we will allow you to.  Amen’                                           

                                            + Fr.Jim Kirstein, SMA


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