Transfiguration

A mountain is the traditional place where divine revelations happen. Moses for instance, had his first encounter with God on Horeb – the mountain of God (Ex. 3, 1). We read in Ex 24, 12 and 13 that Moses went up Mount Sinai to encounter the glory of God. The mountain was shrouded in smoke, there were peels of thunder and it shook violently when the glory of God appeared. Years
later Prophet Elijah encountered God on the same mountain, but now in the  form of a gentle breeze. Prophet Isaiah invites the people “come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the Law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

Bishop Fulton Sheen says that there are three important scenes in the life of Our Lord that took place on the mountains. He preached the Beatitudes, the practice of which would bring a Cross from the world; second, He showed the glory that lay beyond the cross at the scene of Transfiguaration on mount Tabor and the third, He offered Himself in death on Calvary. The second incident took place as a prelude to the third and he had with Him Peter the rock, James the first martyr and John the visionary of the future glory of the Apocalpse. These three apostles needed to lealrn the necessity of the cross and to rectify the false conceptions of a political Messiah, because Peter had vehementaly opposed the cross, while James and John had been throne seekers. The most unfortunate thihg is that in spite of all these teachings, these three would sleep in the garden of Gethsemane during His agony.

The Gospel of today gives us the beautiful story of Transfiguration. Matthew tells us that Jesus took with him his three beloved disciples Peter, James and John to a high Mountain, apart and in their presence he was transfigured. When he was transfigured before them, his face shone like the Sun and his garments became white as snow. Moses the greatest law giver and Elijah the greatest prophet of Israel come to the side of Jesus and talk to him about his passion and death. For Jesus this was a special moment. He was now close to Jerusalem and hence close to his passion and death by crucifixion.  This was the important moment when he had to strengthen his disciples particularly the ones who had been chosen to be close to him during his ministry. Jesus wanted his sonship to be revealed to them with the voice of the Father telling them that Jesus is his Beloved Son in whom he is well pleased and they ought to listen to him. These were the same words used at Jordan during his Baptism as he began his ministry.  Secondly, when his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white, the event may have testified to the fact that Jesus was the true Light which enlightens everyone. Thirdly, the transfiguration foreshadowed the eternal reign of Jesus as God and King in Heaven. The Book of Revelation tells us that there will be no more night and there is no need of light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light. For Jesus this was the confirmation of his mission given by his Father and the confidence that he has been faithful to him to the end.

           The scene of Heavenly glory: The disciples received a preview of the glorious figure Jesus would become at Easter and beyond. While praying, Jesus was transfigured into a shining figure, full of Heavenly glory.  The Jews believed that Moses was taken up in a cloud at end of his earthly life (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4. 326). Elijah was taken directly to Heaven in a chariot of fire without experiencing death (2 Kings 2:11-15). In addition, “Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt, received the Torah on Mount Sinai and brought God’s people to the edge of the Promised Land. Elijah, the great prophet in northern Israel during the ninth century B.C., performed healings and other miracles and stood up to Israel’s external enemies and the wicked within Israel. Their presence in Matthew’s transfiguration account emphasizes Jesus’ continuity with the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah) in salvation history.

Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” It is the attitude of a lazy person to remain in the comfortable zone and enjoy life. Jesus is very clear in his demands that we should go out and become His witnesses. This is the spiritual ecstasy the saints have experienced in their lives. They were able to experience it, because of their passionate desire to be united with the Lord. When we have such earnest desire, we too will experience the presence of the Lord. Psalm 27 says “It is your face of Lord that I seek; hide not your face from me.”

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 Kgs. 8:10-11). I Kgs 8:10 tells us how, by the cover of a cloud, God revealed His presence in the Ark of the Covenant and in the Temple of Jerusalem on the day of its dedication.  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 Son, the Beloved; with Him I am well pleased; listen to Him,” are the same words used by God at Jesus’ baptism (3:17).  They summarize the meaning of the Transfiguration: on this mountain, God reveals Jesus as His Son — His beloved — the One in Whom He is well pleased and to Whom we must listen.