5 and 6 August 2017 Transfiguration Year A Homily
SECOND PETER 1:16
My sisters and brothers in Christ.
Jesus is “transfigured” today in the Gospel.
The setting for the transfiguration reminds us of Moses going up on
a high mountain and encountering the LORD.
The transfiguration certifies Jesus’ mission, special relationship with the
Father and Jesus’ task of fulfilling the Law (represented by Moses) and
the prophets (represented by Elijah).
The transfiguration, like the encounter of Moses and the LORD
struggles with how to describe in human words an experience of the
divine presence that cannot be put into human words.
“Jesús was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun
And his clothes became white as light…..” does not really tell us very much.
This experience is thought by some scripture scholars to be an experience of the Jesús and three of his disciples that is transposed to the time beforeJesús died on the Cross.
The reason for this “transposition” of an event from after to before the death and Resurrection of Jesús may have been to give encouragement to the disciples or the church who were discouraged by persecution, discrimination, expulsion from the synagogues and even death.
Matthew’s gospel was written, as far as we can tell, for a group of Judeans who had become Christians and faced opposition from their fellow country men for their choice to follow the Christ.
During this encounter between Jesús, James, John and Peter not only are Moses and Elijah present.
The disciples hear a voice from a cloud say: “This is my beloved Son. with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”
The disciples of Jesús will need to be strengthened, encouraged and faithful in the face of difficulties and persecutions.
The “Transfiguration” of Jesús gives Jesús’ disciples a taste or snapshot or vision of what will happen to the followers of Jesús after he “has been raised from the dead.”
As we know from the Gospels, the original followers of Jesús were a mixed and at times mismatched group to start a movement that has lasted over 2000 years.
Peter for example, who will deny Jesús three times, today suggests that he build three houses for Moses, Elijah and Jesús. The could take up residence on the mountain where the disciples can run to them to find answers, encouragement and consolation if things begin to become difficult, problematic or dangerous.
Peter in his own way is a “control freak”. Essentially he tries to “tame” or “domesticate” Jesús, Moses and Elijah by capturing them and tying them down to a specific place.
Most of us think if we keep the commandments, are nice to others and do not do anything bad then we will be okay at the final judgment.
We sometimes think our “being good” gives us the right to judge and even exclude those who are not “good” in the ways we are “good”.
What the disciples are not thinking about as they come down from the mountain, although Jesús has predicted his passion and death is about the suffering that is involved in “taking up his/your cross and following me.”
Jesús even speaks of his resurrection as the disciples come down from the mountain.
What the disciples do not realize as they “descend” from the mountain is that they will be “tested” and will “fail” to be faithful to Jesús. They will not be present when Jesús falls three times but they will fall publicly and clearly in their first real “test” as disciples.
One spiritual writer refers to the “fall”, “failure” we all know so well in our struggles with being faithful disciples in an interesting way. This writer speaks of our “falling upward”.
In fact if we do not “fall” down we will not ever be able to “fall” “up” into the hands of our Lord. If we never fall or fail we have no need for God’s grace, mercy or compassion. If we never fail or fall we have no appreciation of a sister or brother’s need for compassion.
The Transfiguration of Jesús is a crystal clear invitation to us to be Transfigured, Changed and Transformed.
Moses, Elijah, Jesús, Peter, James and John have been Transfigured and Transformed.
It is now our task and our turn to take the plunge and fall up into the grace, peace, forgiveness and light of the Christ.