The Transfiguration of the Lord

8.08. 2023 | Homily


The readings for the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord are available HERE.

When we hear about something which happened far away, a long time ago, it is really helpful to hear what happened from someone who was there, someone who witnessed what happened. The event seems more real when an eye-witness tells us about it. Today’s Gospel tells us about an unusual and spectacular thing which happened when Jesus took three of his Apostles – Peter, James and John – up a mountain “where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light”. On that mountain, the three apostles looked on as Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah. Peter was fascinated, and he did something which we can all understand. He wanted this amazing experience not to end, but to continue, and so he suggested erecting three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah.

We hear this Gospel story every year, on the second Sunday in Lent. That is because the Church has traditionally believed that God allowed the three apostles to understand that Jesus really was the one they should follow. They did not know that, not long afterwards, they would see Him being put on trial, humiliated, sentenced to death and executed. God knew they would need strong faith, and what happened on that mountain showed them that Jesus was closely united to Moses and Elijah, who represented the Law and the Prophets, the heart of their Jewish faith. The Transfiguration of Christ was a powerful gesture of divine mercy.

One of those three Apostles speaks to us in the second reading today. Saint Peter says that, when the Apostles had told the followers of Jesus all about Him, they were not repeating “cleverly invented myths”. Why was he able to say this? “We had seen his majesty for ourselves… when we were with him on the holy mountain”. Peter was an eye-witness of what happened that day. He, James and John had “confirmation of what was said in prophecies”. That is why he is able to tell us that we can depend on what God revealed through the prophets. He says, “you should take it as a lamp for lighting a way through the dark, until the dawn comes and the morning star rises in your minds”.

If anyone else said this, we would probably listen and try to grasp the meaning of what they said. But when we listen to Peter, we are listening to an eye-witness who was weak, but nevertheless remained faithful, despite the shocking things which happened to Jesus. On the mountain, God gave the three Apostles the gift of faith which was as solid as a rock. It is most unlikely that we will experience anything like what Peter, James and John saw there, but we can be grateful that they told people what they had seen, and so, later on, the community included the story in the Gospels.

In our lives, many things can happen which make us question our faith, or even doubt the Word of God. Many people witness or experience such awful things that they can no longer believe. I would never criticise them, because I experience discouragements, too. Something which helps me to remain faithful is the fact that, two thousand years ago, people who knew Jesus and saw what He did and what happened to Him handed on everything they knew about Him to other people – the things we discover when we read the Gospel or when we hear it at Mass. I can trust those eye-witnesses. We can all trust them. What the Church, the community of believers, has handed on to us, guides us through the dark times in our lives, until the dawn comes and the morning star rises in our minds.

Fr. Peter



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