The event of the transfiguration of Jesus gives us a glimpse of the glorious fulfillment of Christ’s paschal journey through rejection, humiliation, suffering and resurrection. The primary purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration was to make Jesus’ chosen disciples aware of Jesus’ Divine glory so that they might discard their worldly ambitions and dreams of a conquering political Messiah and might be strengthened in their time of trial. The Transfiguration also established Jesus’ glorious identity as the beloved Son of God and placed his Divine Sonship in the context of Jewish expectations about the kingdom and the resurrection of the dead.
While Jesus was praying his face changed and his clothing became radiant white. It wasn’t that Jesus reflected light, it wasn’t light shining on Jesus, but it was light coming from Jesus. Now Jesus’ divinity shone forth through his humanity. When Jesus is in prayer with his Father we see his true self; his divinity is revealed like never before, as he shares in the radiance of his Father. In the Nicene Creed we profess that Jesus is truly divine, begotten of the Father, consubstantial with the Father, “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.” When Jesus was transfigured, the Father and Son, Light and Light, are in prayerful union. When we pray, light doesn’t shine through us but we ask God to shine his light on us. When Moses came down Mount Sinai his face shone because he had been talking with God (Ex 34:29) and he had to put a veil on his face (Ex 34:34-35). When we pray, we enter the presence of God, God’s light. Our faces do not shine, but we ask to be enlightened in prayer. Peter said to Jesus, “it is good that we are here” and when we pray, we are our truest self because our longing for God is now being fulfilled.
God the Father’s Voice from the cloud: The book of Exodus describes how God spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai from the cloud. God often made appearances in a cloud (Ex 24:15-17; 13:21 -22; 34:5; 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10-11). We are told how God revealed His presence in the Temple of Jerusalem on the day the Ark of the Covenant was placed under the cherubim, and the Temple was dedicated: “When the priests left the Holy place, the Cloud filled the entire Temple, so that the priests could no longer minister, because of the Cloud, since the Lord’ Glory had filled the Temple of the Lord” (1 Kgs 8:10-11). The Jews generally believed that the phenomenon of the cloud would be repeated when the Messiah arrived. God’s words from the cloud, “This is My Beloved Son; listen to him,” are similar to the words used by God at Jesus’ baptism: “You are My beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” Mk 1:11). At the moment of Jesus’ death, a Roman centurion would declare, “Truly, this man was the Son of God” (15:39). These words summarize the meaning of the Transfiguration, that on this mountain, God revealed Jesus as His Son — His beloved — the One in whom He is always well pleased and the One to whom we must listen.
The three transformations in our lives in our journey towards eternity: The first change begins at Baptism, which washes away original sin, transforming us into children of God and heirs of Heaven. The second transformation takes place through our victory over the trials and tribulations of life. Every challenge, every difficulty, every moment of suffering, is an opportunity for transformation and spiritual growth. The third transformation takes place at death. Eternal life in Heaven, perhaps after a period of further transformation in purgatory, is granted to those who have been found worthy. The last transformation or transfiguration will be completed at the Second Coming when our glorified body is reunited with our soul.
The transubstantiation in the Holy Mass is the source of our strength: In each Holy Mass, the bread and wine we offer on the altar are changed into the crucified and risen, living body and blood of Jesus. Just as Jesus’ Transfiguration strengthened the apostles in their time of trial, each holy Mass should be our source of heavenly strength against temptations, and our renewal during Lent. In addition, our holy Communion with the living Jesus should be the source of our daily “transfiguration,” transforming our minds and hearts so that we may do more good by humble and selfless service to others.
Each time we receive one of the Sacraments, we are transformed: For example, Baptism transforms us into sons and daughters of God and heirs of Heaven. Confirmation makes us temples of the Holy Spirit and warriors of God. By the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God brings back the sinner to the path of holiness.
We need “mountain-top experiences” in our lives: We share the “mountain-top experience” of Peter, James and John when we spend extra time in prayer during Lent. Fasting for one day will help the body to store up spiritual energy. This spiritual energy can help us have thoughts that are far higher and nobler than our usual mundane thinking. The hunger we experience puts us more closely in touch with God and makes us more willing to help the hungry. The crosses of our daily lives also can lead us to the glory of transfiguration and resurrection.
We need transformation in our Christian lives so that we may seek reconciliation instead of revenge, love our enemies, pray for those who hate us, give to the needy without expecting a reward, refuse to judge others and make friends with those we don’t naturally like. This transformation will also enable us to hold back on harsh words and let love rule so that we may seek reconciliation rather than revenge, pray for those who give us a hard time, avoid bad-mouthing those we don’t agree with, forgive those who hurt us, and love those who hate us.