One of the most amazing things I have ever seen on the animal channel is how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. The real-time change is incredibly exciting, leaving you with a relatable memory of how the image of the before transits to the after.
Transformation, or more appropriately, change, does not happen by chance. It is normally intentional and would often go through some defined processes. For instance, most people who attend the gym intending to improve their appearance undertake activities that sustain that idea.
The same principle applies to our inner transformation or change. Nobody changes by just saying or wishing it. Change may only come your way once you do the things that would build and support the change!
The Mountain Transfiguration Encounter
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord! The Word Transfiguration comes from the Greek metamorphōun, which is, in turn, the root of the word metamorphosis which means a change in form. The transition from a caterpillar to a butterfly in our opening description is called metamorphosis.
The Gospel Reading (Matt: 17:1-9) tells us that Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves, and he was transfigured in their presence.
Notice immediately that Jesus did two things: he took the three disciples and led them up the high mountain. In life, where you are led determines what you will get. Jesus led them up to a high place for an encounter.
The Gospel of Luke gives us information about the purpose of the ascent to the mountain, which we do not see in the other two synoptic writers (Matthew and Mark), and that is, Jesus went up to pray (Luke 9:28-29).
So, it was at the point of prayer that Jesus was transfigured. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. This directly tells us that prayer’s primary function is our transformation. So, our prayers do not change God but transform us into what God wants us to be.
Furthermore, two important Old Testament figures, Moses, who represented the law, and Elijah, who represented the prophet, showed up conversing with Jesus. Again Luke, unlike Matthew and Mark, tells us that the discussion was about the departure of Jesus, which would happen in Jerusalem.
What significantly connects the two figures with Jesus, the fulfillment of the law and prophets (Matt. 5:17), is that they both encountered God at the mountaintops just as Jesus’ most important teaching and events took place on the mountain, including his crucifixion and death.
Overwhelmed by the amazing sight, Peter confessed to Jesus that it was good that they were there. Furthermore, he wished that the experience tarried as he opted to build three tenets to provide accommodations for Jesus and the two celestial visitors.
Meanwhile, the vision ended after a cloud covered them, and the voice of God the Father sounded clear, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
Understanding and Applying the Key Values of the
Transfiguration Leave Your Comfort Zone: Recall that our Lord Jesus Christ took the three disciples away from the foot of the mountain (the comfort zone) and led them up to the mountain, where they had an uncommon and transforming encounter.
In life, your comfort zone may not be your conquering zone; in order words, where and what you strongly hold onto may hinder your progress and success. There would be a need for us to step away from those things, people, and circumstances that keep us stunted. You must leave your old position before getting a new disposition for transformation.
Open Your Mind for the Transformation: St. Paul said to the Romans (12:2a), “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” So, it is not enough to go away from the crowd or the world; there is a need to allow our minds to be transformed. The transformed person is simply the changed mindset.
When we experience mind transformation, we begin to see things differently. Think about the confessions of Peter amid the celestial vision “It is good that we were here!” That can only come from a transformed mindset.
Make a Tent for God in Your Heart: Recall that Peter offered to make three tents, one for Jesus and the other two for Moses and Elijah. Notice that Jesus did not say “no” to him; rather, what came afterward was the cloud signifying God’s glory and the voice of God the Father saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
God the Father is saying here that we should make a tent in our hearts for His Son, the Word made flesh, to dwell in us (John 1:14). The Christmas song, “Joy to the World,” captures this very well where it says, “let every heart prepare him room.” To hear the beloved Son of God requires us to make a dwelling place for him in our hearts.
Moving Forward: Life is Worthless without Transfiguration The essence of life is that we are transformed at the end of the journey. What happens to those who believe and die in the Lord is transformation, not mortality. St. Paul presented a transfiguration template for us when he said:
And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18).
More than two thousand years ago, the apostles watched Jesus transfigured while in prayer. Today, our Lord Jesus Christ is watching through the Word of God and the Sacrament to witness our respective transfiguration experiences.
It is time to leave our comfort zones to climb up to the Lord in the place of encounter. It is time to open our minds, prepare a tent for the Lord, and receive our transfiguration. Encounter. Without the transfiguration, we cannot be configured to the Lord.
God bless you.