The Transfiguration of the Lord - 6th August, 2017

Liturgical Reflection

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; 2 Peter 1:16-19; Gospel - Matthew 17:1-9

Today’s Preface provides us with some insight into the significance of the Transfiguration for those who were present and also for us.

Through the extraordinary events on the mountain, Jesus revealed his glory to the disciples to strengthen them for the scandal of the cross (Preface of the Transfiguration, 1973 translation).

The account of the Transfiguration, in today’s Gospel, is preceded by the report of Peter’s acknowledgement of Jesus as the Messiah (Mt 16:16) and the statement that Jesus began to show that he must…undergo great suffering…and die (Mt 16:21).

Benedict XVI comments that Peter’s confession and the account of Jesus’ transfiguration are interrelated. Jesus’ divinity belongs with the cross – only when we put the two together do we recognize Jesus correctly (Jesus of Nazareth vol.1, p.305).

It is for this reason that an account of the Transfiguration is also part of the Liturgy for the second Sunday of Lent, when the Preface notes that Jesus revealed himself in glory…to teach them…that the promised Christ had first to suffer and so come to the glory of his resurrection (Preface of the 2nd Sunday of Lent).

Today’s Preface makes clear that the Transfiguration is also significant for us, as present day disciples of Jesus:

Jesus’ glory shone forth from a body like ours to show that the Church which is the body of Christ would one day share his glory (Preface of the Transfiguration).

Similarly, today’s second reading also presents the Transfiguration as grounds for Christian hope. The prophetic message, confirmed on the mountain, is to be seen as a lamp for lighting a way through the dark until the dawn comes and the morning star rises in (our) minds (2 Peter 1:19).

The Gospel account of the Transfiguration describes how Peter’s exhilaration leads him to yearn to stay on the mountain (Mt 17:4). However, Jesus has already indicated that he must go to Jerusalem (Mt 16:21). The Transfiguration was a profound but extra-ordinary and transient experience meant to strengthen the faith of the disciples for the challenges they would later endure.

Like Peter, we too often prefer to prolong the satisfaction and reassurance to be found from mountain-top experiences. However, to be authentic followers of Jesus and to become heirs to eternal life with him, we too have to come down from the mountain and take up our cross and follow him.

Jim Wade, Dominican Laity, Canberra.