Homily for the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
The Feast of the Transfiguration, which we celebrate today, reminds us of one of the most important moments in the life of Christ. In the Gospel that we have just heard, Jesus invites his most intimate inner circle – Peter, James, and John – to accompany Him, to climb the mountain with Him to pray and they witness something truly remarkable. Jesus is transformed before their very eyes. He becomes a shining figure. As Peter recounts in our second reading this morning, the disciples got a glimpse into Jesus’ true glory.
The purpose of the Transfiguration was not only to allow Jesus to consult the Father and prepare for the events of the Paschal Mystery – the suffering, death, and Resurrection of Jesus; it was also to make Jesus’ chosen disciples aware of His divinity, to get a glimpse into who Jesus truly is. It establishes Jesus’ identity not just as a mere human; it shows the disciples that He is in fact the beloved Son of God.
The Transfiguration places that Divine Sonship of Jesus in the context of the expectations about the kingdom of God and the resurrection of the dead. He is not meant to be some political Messiah as so many thought He would be; instead, He is the true Messiah, sent from God to save His people through unconventional means. In this sense then, the Transfiguration is important because it gives us a glimpse into the glorious goal to which Christ’s journey will lead.
This passage from Luke immediately follows Jesus’ challenging command to His disciples which we heard in yesterday’s Gospel. He told them to deny themselves, to take up their crosses, and to follow Him. That is the same command that He gives to us. He gives that command to us because He knows that it will lead us to experience our own moment of transfiguration, it will lead to our own experience of basking in the light of heavenly glory.
All of us desire to live as better Christians. Yet, despite our best efforts, there are days when we will simply fail. But that doesn’t mean we give up. The Lord looks on us with eyes of mercy, love, and compassion. He waits for us to turn toward him and ask him for his help in overcoming the temptations that draw us further away from him. He calls us tenderly. He reminds us of who we are, that we are His, that He loves us, that He desires nothing more than for us to rest with Him. He wants to bring us up the mountain for that intimate encounter with Himself. It’s in those encounters that we become transfigured, that our hearts are more deeply transformed.
This morning, as we climb that mountain to pray, to encounter the Lord in the Eucharist, as we receive His very Body and Blood, may we ask Jesus to get a glimpse of His glory, to be witnesses, just like the disciples, of His true identity as the Son of God, as the Savior of the world. Today, may we become transfigured ourselves, reminded of our own identities as the beloved sons and daughters of God. And may that truly change how we live our lives, leading us to embrace the cross and follow the path that the Father has planned for us.
Image: Transfiguration of the Lord, fresco by Fra Angelico. Photo by Lawrence OP, Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).