“This is My Son, the Beloved; He enjoys My favour. Listen to Him”
We celebrate today the Solemnity of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ. You may ask: “Why was the Transfiguration necessary?” First, let us look at the sequence of the event: The Transfiguration account, which is recorded in all the Synoptic Gospels, takes place just after Jesus had revealed to His apostles that it was necessary that The Son of Man should suffer and die in the hands of the elders and priests, and that he will rise again on the third day. No doubts, this must have upset and confused the minds of the apostles, who had a different notion of Him as a political messiah of God’s Chosen People. This Transfiguration was therefore to reveal to the key apostles – Peter, James and John – the glory that was to follow that Death of Christ. It was to restore hope and strengthen their faith in Christ as “The Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16: 16) attested in their very last encounter. Secondly, the Transfiguration was a moment of confirmation and affirmation for Jesus Himself that what he was about to offer Himself to endure was truly the Will of The Father. He went up the mountain “to be alone” (Matthew 17: 1; Mark 9:2); and “to pray” (Luke 9:29). Prayer was very central in the life of Jesus because apart from being a moment of encounter and bond with the Father, it always offered Him occasions to be certain about the Father’s Will. On our part therefore, prayer is the surest way of knowing what God wills for us.
The Transfiguration event is spectacular by the appearance of the two great pillars in Israel’s history – Moses and Elijah. Moses was the greatest law-giver, who encountered God personally on Mount Sinai to receive the two tablets of the Decalogue, which bonded the Israelites in a covenant with the Almighty God. Elijah was the greatest of the prophets who spoke the Word of God with clarity and audacity, who himself encountered God on Mount Horeb. They both recognised Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah of whom they dreamt and whom the prefigured in different ways. They confirmed that what Jesus was about to do was in accord with the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. St. Luke tells us in his narrative that they “spoke of His (Jesus’) departure which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem” (Luke 9: 31).
Peter’s reaction to this awe-filled episode is very instructive: “Lord, it is wonderful for us to be here, if You wish I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” One cannot imagine the peace, joy, tranquility and protection; and of course the fear that must have overwhelmed the apostles at the enormousness of this magnificent sight. St. Mark tells us: “They were terrified” (Mark 9: 6). The Holy Word says: “In the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy.” The Psalmist confirms by saying: “One day within Your court is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84: 10). How do we feel in His Presence? How much time can we offer Him? Peter wished they could be there forever!
This event is made more spectacular, sublime and mysterious by the sudden burst of the Voice of God, the Father, confirming in all clarity: “This is My Son, the Beloved; He enjoys My favour. Listen to Him.” Not only does God affirm the Divine Sonship of Jesus and His divinity but more than that God affirms the fact that Jesus is acting according to His Will: “He enjoys My favour.” St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading of this Mass (2 Peter 1: 16-19) that Jesus was “honoured and glorified by God the Father, when the Sublime Glory Itself spoke to Him …” In the Transfiguration we encounter God’s Self-Revelation as the Trinity of Persons acting together. God, the Son is transfigured; God the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a cloud; and God the Father speaks out. We are God’s beloved children when we do His Will then our actions please Him.
Dear friends, the Transfiguration offers us another privilege to contemplate Christ as The Son of God, The Second Person of the Trinity, Our Lord and Saviour, who came to die for us so that we “may have life and have it in full” (John 10: 10). Secondly, it gives us the opportunity for sincere examination of our relationship with Jesus; and how we respond to the Word of God.
May God grant us the wisdom to know Jesus as our Lord; the grace to listen to Him; and the patience to seek His Will in all things. Amen.