The Transfiguration – what to make of it?
This Sunday 6th August is the Feast of The Transfiguration of the Lord but when you think about it, it can sound a bit ‘magical’, ‘fairytale-ish’ even. We are told that Jesus goes up onto a mountain and His clothes become dazzlingly white. Prophets appear and talk to Him. And then it is all over and Jesus tells His friends to say nothing. But why?
We should hold on to the absurdity of the incident. For there is simply no reason for all this to have happened. In particular, there is no reason to put it into a Gospel – the evangelist, Matthew, makes no capital out of it. It doesn’t help his message. It’s simply just there!
And this is the strength of the Transfiguration as an historical incident. There is no reason for anyone to have invented it. It is not central to the Christian case. It is not used to win arguments. There is only one reason to put it into the Gospel, and that is because it happened. It is one of those cases of the writer putting things down without knowing why they are important but just because they happened, and their very puzzlement is what makes the story so convincing.
Why, then, did it happen? Surely so that we could see and understand that Jesus is at once the one with the message and the one foretold by the prophets of God and that He is one with God, and lives for all eternity in a blaze of dazzling and unapproachable light. What Peter had blurted out, in his usual impetuous way, that Jesus was the Christ of God, is here on the mountain confirmed in unimaginable clarity.
And so too, in the Transfiguration, Jesus is empowered to continue His journey and mission to save all who will trust in Him, knowing that regardless of what lies ahead, His Father remains with Him, guiding His steps and making His mission bear fruit for all humanity.
In the end, as we reflect on the mystery of the Transfiguration, we are reminded that the death of Jesus was not an accident of fate or some expression of Divine wrath, but an act of love, freely accepted and offered for the sake of those who are “least” in the Kingdom of Heaven—for you and for me and all who would call Him Lord.
Let’s heed the words of Wisdom then, spoken to us from on high: Suddenly the voice of the Father resounds proclaiming Jesus to be His most beloved Son, saying ‘listen to him.’ These words are important! Our Father said this to these Apostles and says it to us as well: ‘listen to Jesus, because He is my beloved Son.’
This week let us keep these words in our minds and in our hearts: ‘listen to Jesus! God the Father says it to everyone: to me, to you, to everyone, all people! Here is the aid for our journey of life. ‘Listen to Jesus!’ Listen to Him as you read your Bibles. Listen to Him during the Mass. Listen to Him in your special moments in prayer. Don’t forget, HE LOVES YOU!
Fr David Jones OLW