Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (Matt. 17:1-3).
The event of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ stands at the middle of his ministry. Six days earlier, our Lord prods the apostles on a survey about the popular and in-house opinions about him. Hence comes the two-fold questions: “Who do people say I am?” and “Who do you say I am?”
The transfiguration answers the question of the identity of our Lord Jesus Christ with his glorious transfiguration before three of his apostles who stand as witnesses. The event further confirms Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi “You are Christ the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). As a beatific vision, it settles our Lord’s promise: “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they SEE the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matt. 16: 27–28).
- The ascent to the mountain with the three disciples
Our Lord invites three of his apostles to undertake a pilgrimage with him to the mountain. He chooses Peter, James, and John. The number “three” not only reminds us about the Trinity, but it also indicates completeness, and regarding bearing witness, it is apt.
He chooses those who are willing to climb the mountain with him (Psalm 24:3). From the Gospels, the three represent the highly ambitious trio within the apostolic college. Peter is determined to stand with the Lord (Matt. 26:33) while James and John request for seats at the right and left hand of the Lord in his GLORY (Mark 10:35-45) and they would experience that glory on the mountain of transfiguration.
- The mountaintop transfiguration
Transfiguration means change and not just regular change but significant change. The word means a change in the figure but more technically it means incredible positive change.
The Gospel tells us that when our Lord and the three disciples reach the mountaintop, something amazing happens. While the disciples watch, our Lord’s appearance changes as his face shine like the sun and his clothes become dazzling white.
What could be the meaning of this luminous apparition? The vision of Daniel in the First Reading today (Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14) tells us among other things:
I saw: One like a Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven; and when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, the One like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship….
We can see here that what happened at the mountaintop, also known as Transfiguration represents the unveiling of the glory of heaven on earth with the appearances of glorified men of the mountain; Moses, and Elijah. No wonder Peter declares as the vision lasts: “It is wonderful for us to be here.” Yes, it will be more wonderful if we all could make it to heaven and be in God’s presence for ever.
- Lessons from the mountaintop transfiguration
The description of the kingdom of heaven has been the theme of the Gospels since the last three Sundays. The Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord seems to be the last in the series but with a deeper and more involving description the Kingdom of heaven.
From the premise above, we can say that the kingdom of God is beautiful, glorious, and comforting. However, before we get there, we need to ascend the mountain. Mountain climbing is not an easy exercise as it requires resilience, commitment, and discipline.
To get to the mountaintop, one would need to drop one’s baggage at the foot of the mountain. Dropping our baggage entails disengaging from the distractions of the lower region to advance to the upper area. It involves change and profound change as such. It requires disengagement from sin.
The Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ is a divine facility at our service; it is also our transfiguration. The Transfiguration is a call for us to rise from our preoccupation with lowly things while striving and longing for higher values. The Transfiguration encourages us to rise from the base to the tops.
In life, we grow by changing. Those who do not grow are those who refuse to change. But those who embrace positive change improve, obtain new values, opportunities and new beginnings.
As we celebrate the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ may we strive daily to respond to the invitation to change by ascending to the mountain with the Lord for a better and more resplendent life. May we also accept the instruction of God the Father to listen to His Beloved Son who is pleasing to Him.
Happy Feast of Transfiguration and may you experience positive changes in your life as you go through a deep and lasting transfiguration in your life. Amen.