The Gospel story about Jesus’s Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-9 shows us where faith leads. Faith leads to transfiguration, to transformation into the very life of God, a life that is brilliant and begins here. What a gift we have in faith! It does not come from natural experience, yet we cannot have it without experience. And that experience is found in Scripture.
The three apostles in today’s story were given a profound experience of faith which blew them away, so much so they wanted to stay on top of the mountain and forget about the daily problems of life.
Like St. Peter, we might wish to cherish the splendid vision of God’s glory atop a mountain away from the maddening crowds and apart from life’s hustle and bustle.
How often I meet people who tell me they crave a life on a beautiful island or somewhere else apart from the compromise and corruption of the world! But, that is not how it is meant to be. We must bloom where we are planted.
The bright vision of faith must be lived in the context of everyday life, not in an imaginary life free from challenges or obstacles to be overcome.
The apostle Paul, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, and so many other people you have heard about were not afraid to accept the hardships that the Gospel entails in real life, for it is by living the faith in the circumstances of normal, day-to-day experience that salvation is brought into "clear light."
This is the hidden, but explosive message of the Transfiguration.
The miracle of Jesus’s Transfiguration is the most descriptive experience we have of God’s glory in the New Testament. It reveals Jesus’s divine nature shining through his human nature, it shows the glory of God revealing who he really is in the flesh.
What a letdown it must have been, at first, for these disciples to have to come down to earth after such a marvelous spiritual ecstasy! Can you imagine how it must have felt for the first astronauts to return to earth after being thrust into the mighty reaches of space!
As incredible as that must have been to the astronauts, it pales in comparison to what the three disciples experienced during Jesus’s Transfiguration.
It has been assumed that the Transfiguration took place on Mount Tabor, south of Galilee. Modern scripture scholars, however, contend that it took place on Mount Hermon. This makes sense since Jesus and His disciples, after they came down from the mountain, departed through Galilee to Capernaum, going south.
The disciples learned an important lesson from the Transfiguration. The learned that God’s glory emanated from the very being of Jesus to His life, to His teachings, and to His actions. They saw Him as the word made flesh, and they beheld His glory as the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-14 ).
They did not build tabernacles to adore Jesus on top of the mountain for they discovered that Jesus is the living tabernacle of flesh and blood who wishes to tabernacle himself within us. This is why the Father declared, "This is my beloved Son, listen to Him."
The reality of the risen Lord, revealed in the Transfiguration, is to be received and remembered but, above all, it is to be lived. As followers of Christ we should examine those tightly cramped corners of the heart to see what needs to be transfigured with the life of Christ. That is the message of the Transfiguration.
Many people, like the three apostles who witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus, are tempted to seek an escape from the problems of life and to worship Jesus by a kind of mystical withdrawal. But, that was not what Jesus intended. The apostles had to descend the mountain, and worship Jesus in real life with all its problems and challenges.
The glory of the transfiguration inspired the three apostles, not to withdraw from active involvement in the world, but to face the awesome challenges of life with renewed insight and vigor.
May the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration inspire you to be renewed by the awesome, living faith of Christ.
Fr. Hugh Duffy holds a Ph.D. from the University of Hull, England. Born in Donegal, Ireland, he was ordained in 1966 in Dublin, Ireland. He is pastor emeritus of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Okeechobee, Florida, where he served for 30 years and built a new Church, debt-free, in 2013. He founded Christian Community Action (CCA) in Ireland that built housing for seniors, a sheltered workshop and bakery for people with disabilities, a community center, and an addiction treatment center. Since 2013 he has traveled across America as an Outreach Priest for Cross Catholic Outreach, Inc. Duffy’s recent book, "What is This Thing Called Faith?" is a collection of meditations with reflections for readers on the sayings of Jesus. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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