6 August. Tuesday. Feast of the Transfiguration
2 Pt 1:16-19: Peter recalls the Transfiguration; we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
Lk 9:28-36: Luke’s version of the event, very similar to the original account by Mark.
Second Epistle of St. Peter 1:16-19
We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Gospel: Luke 9:28-36
Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” – not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came an overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
Privileged to be there
Three privileged people were invited to share three amazing experiences. They were handpicked each time, chosen by Jesus himself. The three chosen were Peter, James and John. Even if not formally invited ourselves, the Lord won’t mind our being there in spirit, quietly in the background. We try to see what the apostles saw, with the added advantage of observing their reaction.
The first occasion was in the home of Jairus, a synagogue official. When this man asked Jesus to cure his daughter, she was “desperately sick”. Before they got near the house, word came through that she had died. Jairus must have been hurrying Jesus along, wishing the little woman with the running sore would come another time for her cure (Mk 5:29). To hear that she was already dead, and that they might have been in time to save her must have broken his heart; but Jesus held on to hope, and chose Peter, James and John to go in with him into the dead girl’s room. . He took her by the hand, told her to get up, told them to give her something to eat (Mk 5:43). When the balance between life and death was changed irrevocably in that little room, these three disciples were there to see it.
Much later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the only three disciples Jesus took with him were Peter, James and John. ”My soul is sorrowful to the point of death,” he told them. “Take this cup away from me,” he begged of “Abba’, his Father. They were priveleged to experience his extraordinary acceptance of God’s will – which prepared him for the pitiless test of Calvary. But then they fell asleep. “Stay awake,” was his warning. “Stay awake and pray not to be put to the test”.
The third event to consider is what today’s feast is about, the Transfiguration. What frightened the three disciples on this occasion was the awesome encounter with the Living God. Here was Jesusas they’d never seen him before, “brilliantly shining” in the presence of two famous saints of the past, Moses and Elijah, who lived in the memory of their people. Their presence heightened the dignity of Jesus, an exaltation that reached its zenith when a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, my Chosen. Listen to him” .
Since Jesus invited Peter, James and John to witness all three of these extraordinary scenes, he must have meant to prepared them in particular for the coming shock of his Passion and Crucifixion. When the darkness came down on them they’d remember the light. The memory of his transfigured appearance and of his power to raise the girl to life would help them to hold their nerve! Those privileged moments made them think deeply about his identity. Who was he? They were nudged in the direction of total faith in him, as the unique Son of God.
May we fulfil God’s will in our responsibilities, in keeping the commandments, with courage in the face of suffering. Transfiguration into the image of Christ is a slow process but it is offered to all of us, if we truly want it.