HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD
HOMILY THEME: TRANSFORMING ENCOUNTER
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
The Transfiguration of Jesus is one of the major mysteries in the life of Jesus. The word transfiguration is not so much in vogue in our everyday language, but what it means in common day English is some form of transformation. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines transfiguration as “A change in form or appearance; an exalting, glorifying, or spiritual change.”
The mystery of the transfiguration took place shortly after Jesus had disclosed to his disciples that he was going to suffer and die. They were totally confused after hearing this because they did not expect the messiah to die. Jesus needed to reassure them of the presence and power of God. He took them to a place where they could have a special encounter with God and be free from the many distractions of the world. He wanted them to take a break from a world where there were too many distractions, discordant voices and cacophony of noise. In their moment of confusion, Peter, James and John were given one instruction from a voice from heaven: to Listen to Jesus and not to their pessimistic thoughts. Jesus wanted them to experience silence, solitude and the peaceful presence of God. At that moment they saw glory of God shine in Jesus: “He was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light (Matthew 17:2).
This voice from heaven confirmed the divinity of Jesus. This confirmation came in the presence of five witnesses: Moses, Elijah, Peter, James and John. Long before the transfiguration, the vision of the prophet Daniel confirmed the divinity, “One like a son of man…(who) received dominion, splendour and kingship; (and) all nations, peoples and tongues will serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14). This vision of Daniel is obviously a prophecy referring to Jesus. Following the transfiguration experience, the Apostle Peter further confirmed the majesty and divinity of Jesus: “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 honour and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:16-17).
More so, Peter had enjoyed this special encounter in God’s presence and in his excitement said: “It is good for us to be here.” This is what happens when we experience peace and joy in God’s presence, or when we invite God into our lives. Peter wanted to remain on the mountaintop where he would be in contact with God alone, but Jesus did not allow him remain there. Jesus wanted him to return to the valley, where he would encounter people and bear witness to what he experienced.
Our ‘mountain top experience’ is when, where and how we encounter God. Our moments of transformation could be spurred by a simple or spectacular experience that brought us closer to God or enabled us to see a glimpse of God’s glory more than we have ever experienced. We experience our own transfiguration when God transforms us by the power of his amazing grace. The Apostle Paul says, “All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
We all long to be transformed, but we know that transformation comes with suffering, like the pangs of childbirth. However, the result of positive transformation is great. May we experience the peaceful and powerful presence of God in moments of crises, when things are just not going well, and in moments when we are in the intersections of life, not knowing where to go or what to do. Saint Anastasius of Sinai prays on this feastday that “Like Jesus…may the minds of our eyes shine with his light and the features of our souls be made new; may we be transfigured with him and moulded to his image, ever becoming divine, being transformed in an ever greater degree of glory.”