Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 2
Peter, James and John must have felt like they won a gold medal when they were invited by Jesus to accompany him up a high mountain "apart by themselves." To be with Jesus without the crowds pressing in, without religious leaders trying to cause confusion, and without people crying out or demanding miracles must have felt like being gold medal winners. This was going to be some peaceful, quality time with Jesus. What could be better? Well, better was the fact that they were going up a high mountain. Throughout the Old Testament, amazing things happened on mountains: Abraham and Mount Moriah, the Ten Commandments and Mount Sinai, Elijah and Mount Carmel, and one of the temptations of Jesus took place on a high mountain. The apostles were thrilled as they hiked up the path with Jesus in the lead.
On the mountain Jesus "was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white…" What does that mean? The Greek word for transfigure is meamorphoo. In English we use the word "metamorphosis" or transformation, rebirth, change. We commonly understand activity in terms of a caterpillar going through a transformation to become a butterfly. Peter, James and John are witnessing a transformation that is happening to Jesus. To communicate this event, Mark says "his clothes became dazzling white." It wasn’t that Jesus was changing clothes. Transformation means that the inside changes the outside. The glory of God was revealing itself through the human body of Jesus. In the first reading, Daniel describes the presence and glory of God as brightness and fire, and he tells us this glory was given to the "Son of man." Fire, light, dazzling white are images used to express divine glory or presence. The glory of God that was contained or "housed" in Jesus reveals its presence to the three disciples. This transformation tells us that within the person of Jesus was the very presence of God, so complete and overflowing, now bursting forth.
The word "transform" appears in Romans 12:2. "And do not be conformed to this word, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." We too are to be transformed by a radical overhaul such that the original is no longer seen, like the caterpillar to butterfly image. The old person of sin is put to death. Instead, we are to be new creatures in Jesus Christ. Again, this is not simply changing clothes and putting on virtues or taking on spiritual disciplines. "We all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" 2 Corinthians 3:18. The glory of God, planted at Baptism, is to grow within us so that it can shine forth. As we fix our eyes on Jesus and "listen" to his word and obey, transformation takes place within our hearts and minds. To be transformed now is to prepare for the ultimate and complete transformation in the end into the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is the gold medal for which we should be single-mindedly seeking.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.