18th Sunday Transfiguration
Today we celebrate the great Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus. 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.
Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter “On the Most Holy Rosary” in which he gave the Church five new, beautiful mysteries of the Rosary on which to meditate, called the Transfiguration “the mystery of light par excellence.” The Transfiguration is a glimpse of the Glory of God. This event in the life of our Lord occurred shortly before Jesus went to Jerusalem to be crucified. Pope John Paul II said that Jesus allowed Peter, James and John to experience His Transfiguration so “to prepare to experience with him the agony of the passion, so as to come with him to the joy of the resurrection and a life transfigured by the Holy Spirit” (John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Daughters of St. Paul, 2002, pp. 29-30).
Jesus “took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart” (Mt 17:1). The mountain in the Bible represents a place close to God and an intimate encounter with Him, a place of prayer where one stands in the presence of the Lord. There up on the mount, Jesus is revealed to the three disciples as transfigured, luminescent and most beautiful. And then Moses and Elijah appear and converse with Him. His face is so resplendent and his robes so white that Peter, awe-struck, wishes to stay there, as if to stop time. Suddenly from on high the voice of the Father resounds proclaiming Jesus to be his most beloved Son, saying “listen to him” (v. 5). This word is important! Our Father said this to these Apostles, and says it to us as well: “listen to Jesus, because he is my beloved Son”. This week let us keep this word in our minds and in our hearts: “listen to Jesus!” God the Father says it to everyone: to me, to you, to everyone, all people! “Listen to Jesus!” Don’t forget.
This invitation from the Father is very important. We, the disciples of Jesus, are called to be people who listen to his voice and take his words seriously. To listen to Jesus, we must be close to him, to follow him, like the crowd in the Gospel who chase him through the streets of Palestine. Jesus did not have a teaching post or a fixed pulpit, he was an itinerant teacher, who proposed his teachings, teachings given to him by the Father, along the streets, covering distances that were not always predictable or easy. Follow Jesus in order to listen to him. But also let us listen to Jesus in his written Word, in the Gospel. I pose a question to you: do you read a passage of the Gospel every day? Yes, no… yes, no… half of the time … some yes, some no. It is important! Do you read the Gospel? It is so good; it is a good thing to have a small book of the Gospel, a little one, and to carry in our pocket or in our purse and read a little passage in whatever moment presents itself during the day. In any given moment of the day I take the Gospel and I read something, a short passage. Jesus is there and he speaks to us in the Gospel! Ponder this. It’s not difficult, nor is it necessary to have all four books: one of the Gospels, a small one, with us. Let the Gospel be with us always, because it is the Word of Jesus in order for us to be able to listen to him.
From the event of the Transfiguration Pope Francis proposed two significant elements that can be summed up in two words: ascent and descent. We all need to go apart, to ascend the mountain in a space of silence, to find ourselves and better perceive the voice of the Lord. This we do in prayer. But we cannot stay there! Encounter with God in prayer inspires us anew to “descend the mountain” and return to the plain where we meet many brothers weighed down by fatigue, sickness, injustice, ignorance, poverty both material and spiritual. To these brothers in difficulty, we are called to bear the fruit of that experience with God, by sharing the grace we have received. And this is curious. When we hear the Word of Jesus, when we listen to the Word of Jesus and carry it in our heart, this Word grows. Do you know how it grows? By giving it to the other! The Word of Christ grows in us when we proclaim it, when we give it to others! And this is what Christian life is. It is a mission for the whole Church, for all the baptized, for us all: listen to Jesus and offer him to others. Do not forget: this week listen to Jesus! And think about the matter of the Gospel: will you? Will you do this?
We can all identify with the apostles because in our mountain-top experiences of joy and consolation we also want to stay. We want them to go on forever. And then in the moments of trial we want to flee. We forget that our Lord did not promise us a rose garden, but a garden of olives and a crown of thorns. “If anyone will come after me let him pick up his cross daily and follow me.”
The Transfiguration was the mountain-top experience of the apostles which prepared them for their future trials. The Mass is our mountain-top experience which prepares us for the trials of our day. The Mass is not a transfiguration but a transubstantiation, in which bread and wine are transformed into the glorious Risen Jesus. And in the joy and consolation of Communion we say with Peter, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” And we do not want to leave. But it is not to be. Soon we will hear the words, “The Mass is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” So we pick up our cross and leave to face the trials of the day. But having been to the top of the mountain we know that “nothing can separate us from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Have a blessed week.
Fr. A. Francis HGN