The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (17:1-9) is weighted with theological meaning. Those who appeared with Jesus — Moses and Elijah, represent the whole of Israel’s law and prophetic tradition.
The mountain is also important for it is reminiscent of Sinai, where the first covenant (the Ten Commandments) was established.
In the Old Testament, we learn from father Abraham who sets out — not knowing where his faith would lead him. We ought to be moved by old, lovable Abraham’s faith which carried him through days and nights of temptation guided by the dim, flickering light of faith, and sometimes by stunningly brilliant insight. In today’s gospel, Jesus 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. 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 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, away from the sin 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 an imaginary life.
The apostle Paul, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, and so many other people you know — and have known — 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 existence that salvation is brought into "clear light."
This is the hidden, but explosive message of the Transfiguration.
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 escape 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 mount Tabor and worship Jesus in the context of everyday experience, 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 faith and life 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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