Why this title? Many older Catholics will remember the story about a very significant incident in the life of Peter the Apostle during the persecution of Christians by the Roman...
The feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration does not often occur on a Sunday. However, when it does then the feast itself takes precedence over the ‘ordinary’ Sunday of the Liturgical Year. The importance of this event in the life and ministry of Jesus is emphasised by the fact that it is recorded in all the Synoptic versions of the Gospel. This year we reflect on
MATTHEW’S account which is recorded 17: 1b – 9.
At the start of this year’s reflection it was mentioned that one of Matthew’s principal motives was to stress (especially to Jewish readers) that
(i) there is an essential connection between Moses, Prophets and promised Messiah, and (ii) Jesus of Nazareth was precisely this. I have no doubt that here is the reason why “Jesus took with him Peter and James and John … and led them up a high mountain apart.” (Do not forget that word apart as we will return to it later.)
It is important that what the three disciples witnessed is not limited to the single fact of Jesus’ face “shining like the sun.” This is only one aspect. The ‘vision’ is not complete without the second. This additional element is stated clearly and explicitly – “and there appeared to them Elijah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus.”
So, immediately let us reflect on the importance of talking to Jesus. When I allow myself to be led by Jesus and taken apart I need to grasp the opportunity provided – and talk
TO him. First of all I must develop the habit of talking – speaking my own ordinary human and personal language. This, therefore, does not limit the ‘talking’ to set prayers composed by others– even those of our favourite saints. I must move further away from set formula. At some stage I have to abandon words of ‘prayer-praying-language’. I must learn to talk to the Lord – there is no need to feel or be inhibited. Let it all ‘hang out’.
If we read our Gospel extract carefully, we need to hear Jesus’ words to the three disciples: “Rise and
have no fear.” It is interesting that only Matthew’s record of the incident tells us this – although all three record that the disciples were afraid. Recall that Jesus had taken them apart – he offered them a privileged opportunity. All times presented to us so that we are able to be apart with the Lord is indeed a privilege which provides us with an opportunity for intimacy. How intimate am I in my talking to the Lord? Stilted language and / or the repetition of formulas are not talking tohim. Rather, too often it is talking at him in a foreign language.
Over the years these reflections have drawn attention to the person of Job and the manner in which he communicated with God. Job spoke
TO the Lord. At one stage we hear him saying “but for my part I would speak with the Almighty.” Then, at the end of it all he is able to proclaim:”I knew of thee only by report, but now I see thee with my own eyes.” (Job 13: 3 and 42:5). In many ways the three disciples were taken apart so that theycould see with their own eyes. We need the same experience which should never be complicated by the building of booths or tabernacles. Keep it simple – one on one – AND TALK TO HIM.
Now for the second vital aspect of the transfiguration event – the coming together of Moses, Elijah and Jesus.
Jesus’ transfiguration is much, much more than an
experience. It is a MANIFESTATION for the benefit of the three disciples. They are brought face to face with the two TESTAMENTS – Old and New. Moses was the great Old Testament figure of Jesus himself. He was the one who communicated to the old People of God the essentials of EXODUSand COMMANDMENTS. Elijah, who was recognised as the father of all the great prophets and teachers of God’s call and plan to his people. These come together with the Lord.
The Old Testament reaches its climax in the
PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST. The NEW testament and witness now commence. The kingdom has arrived. It is ‘among them and us.’ Always remember the essential connection between both Testaments. Remember what Jesus himself said at the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount – “do not suppose that I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets: I did not come to abolish but to complete … until all that must happen has happened.” (See Matthew 5: 17 & 19) We ignore the WITNESSof the Old Testament at our own peril.
PERSON of Jesus Christ is central to ‘the plot’. It is he who holds the two Testaments together. This is why we need to know the basic essentials of both Testaments. A full understanding of Jesus’ person, mission and ministry can only be understood and appreciated if anchored securely within Law and Prophets.
On the mountain the disciples were confused. We will not be if our expectations of the Lord are realistic – with a willingness to be taken apart in order to talk to him. What are my real expectations of the Lord?