Although the Catholic Church doesn’t celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration until August 6, today’s Gospel from Luke is the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. While this important event in Jesus’ earthly ministry also appears in Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels, we read Luke’s account in this year’s cycle of the Lectionary (Year C).
In all three accounts of the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John are witnesses to the event. Many wonder why Jesus was transfigured with these disciples witnessing this amazing encounter.
Like most Jews of the time, the disciples mistakenly believed that the blessings to be brought by the Messiah or Christ would be earthly or material blessings. As in the time of King David, the Messiah was supposed to bring freedom from foreign domination; there would be a return to a golden age of material prosperity like the times when David and Solomon ruled. When Jesus had already begun to prepare His disciples for His impending death by revealing that He would suffer, the disciples rejected this revelation. By means of Jesus’ Transfiguration, Christ wanted to teach them that God’s Christ would give them more than earthly happiness, political independence or material prosperity. Jesus wanted them to learn that He would come to His glory through suffering and Death, in order to bring them the better happiness of freedom from sin and the grace of everlasting life. The Transfiguration was to teach them and us that we will come to share in Christ’s glory in the same way and that ultimate happiness cannot be measured in earthly terms. The Transfiguration also “gives us a foretaste of Christ’s glorious coming, when He will change your lowly body to be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). The Transfiguration also reminds us that “it is through many persecutions that we must enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
There is significance auto why Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus during the Transfiguration. Both Moses and Elijah were real people that once lived; but, they were “bigger than life.” Moses symbolized the Jewish Law in much the same way “Uncle Sam” embodies the idea of the United States. Likewise, the Prophet Elijah was also a symbol of Prophecy as much the same way as the “Statue of Liberty” represents the ideal of freedom to Americans. The Transfiguration serves to prove by “The Law” (Moses) and “The Prophets” (Elijah) that Jesus’ suffering was indeed the plan of God. This proof is further supported by the testimony of God the Father Himself – commanding that Jesus’ revelation must be heeded. Moses and Elijah are also the only Old Testament figures to hear God’s voice on Mt. Sinai, which is also called Mt. Horeb. The Transfiguration counteracts the mistaken
belief held by the disciples and many Jews of the time that the Messiah will bring only earthly blessings, like freedom from the Romans, material prosperity, and earthly contentment.
Today’s Gospel gave Peter, James, and John a glimpse into who Jesus really is as well as providing them a preview into what was to come. They had front row seats to witness the glory and power that would Jesus would exhibit through His death and resurrection. When He ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father, His Transfiguration would finally be complete and permanent.
Blessings, Deacon Steve