Jesus’ transfiguration: Revelation, Prophecy and challenge
Transfiguration of Our Lord, Year A (Matt 17:1-9)
August 6, 2017
By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB
THE climbing to the top of a “high mountain” (usually identified as “Mount Tabor”) could seem a justifiable attempt, on the part of Jesus, to give himself and three of his disciples a much needed “break.” Away from the “choking crowd,” all by themselves, they could have rested for a while before going down again to be with the people always eager to listen to Jesus or to be healed of their maladies. But that was not Jesus’ intention in taking the three disciples along to the top of Mount Tabor.
Jesus’ purpose was not to offer his three disciples a vacation but an enlightenment—an opportunity to experience, in an indelible manner, an immersion into the mystery of his personal identity, his destiny of glory and his mission as the revealer of God’s merciful/saving love.
What the three disciples saw on that day was something they could not expect: “Jesus’ face became as bright as the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” Such was the miraculous change in appearance that we call the “Transfiguration,” which left a lasting impression on the three disciples, especially Peter and John. After so many years, Peter would still remember that they had been “eyewitnesses of his majesty” . . . and heard that unique declaration “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (2 Pt 1:17). And John, at the very beginning of his Gospel, would state: “We have seen his glory, the glory of an only Son coming from the Father . . .” (Jn 1:14b).
It was through the Transfiguration that the three privileged disciples understood that Jesus was much more than Elijah or “one of the prophets.” They came to have a first glimpse into the divine reality of his person – he was no less than the Son-of-God-made-Man! And this proved a great help to their faith when they saw that same Jesus crushed in the agony of Gethsemane.
But the episode of the Transfiguration is more than just the revelation of who Jesus is and a source of strength to his disciples in the dark moments of trial. It is also a revelation of what our attitude to Jesus should be. The Voice from the cloud enjoined the three disciples and all his disciples of all times “Listen to him!” This is what all of us should do, for Jesus has something very important to tell us.
He came to reveal to humankind God’s immense love for each human being. He came to teach us to respond to God’s love by loving Him and all humans the way Jesus himself has shown. He came to tell us that if we want to be his disciples we must take up our own cross and carry it behind him “till the end of the road.” This is a great challenge . . .
If we learn this “lesson” and live by it, then will the power of Jesus’ divine nature and of his Paschal Mystery transfigure also our lives in the measure that we do our best to live by his Word, for Jesus is our Teacher and our Guide.