First Reading: Dn 7:9-10. 13-14; Psalm: 97. R. v. 1a. 9a; Second Reading: 2Pt 1:16-19; Gospel: Mt 17:1b-9



Beautiful Savior – Sermon for the Transfiguration of Our Lord on Matthew  17:1-9 | Pastorsamwise

The transfiguration story is a very familiar passage in the scriptures. It is one of those passages that we can easily pre-empt because we are all too familiar with the characters in the story. To approach this passage with this sense of familiarity may dissuade the keen attention required to reap the fruits of today’s message. I will therefore encourage us to make all mental effort to give today’s reflection our utmost attention so as not to miss out on the spiritual package that God has in store for us; and not to fall victim of the contempt of familiarity.

What is transfiguration? What does it really mean? The word transfiguration comes from the Latin roots trans meaning “across” and figura meaning “form”. Put together, transfiguration means a change in form or appearance. Now, can we say that when Jesus was transfigured that he took a form or appearance that he never had before? Yes and No. Yes, because physically the face and the garment of Jesus shone like the sun and as light which was a completely new thing to his apostles. And No, because this sudden manifestation was not a revelation of something that never was before but an accentuation of who Jesus really is and would forever be. So, what exactly does this latter explanation imply?

The transfiguration of Jesus was the accentuation of his divinity. We can say that it was a time that the divinity of Jesus rose to prominence. Jesus has always been God which is why we cannot really say that he took a new form or appearance at his transfiguration. Although Jesus had always revealed his divinity; but the mountaintop revelation was more down to earth. When Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30), he revealed his divinity. When he was baptised at the Jordan (Mt 3:13-17), fed the five thousand (Mt 14:13-21), raised Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11:38-44), and cast out demons and healed diseases (Mt 8:28-34; 9:1-8), he also revealed his divinity. But at the transfiguration, the three apostles experienced something similar to heavenly splendour; an experience that stuck with them for a lifetime of which Peter testified to in the second reading of today.

The theophany, that is, the revelation of Jesus’ divinity from the cloud; “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” ratified and consolidated this divine manifestation previously made public at Jesus’ baptism (Mt 3:38-44). The transfiguration of Jesus therefore does not imply any essential change in Jesus. On the contrary, it was Peter, James and John who were actually transformed by this mountaintop experience. And how is it so?

Pope Benedict XVI has this to say regarding the transformation of the three apostles on the mountaintop; “On the mountain the three of them see the glory of God’s Kingdom shining out of Jesus. On the mountain they are overshadowed by God’s holy cloud. On the mountain – in the conversation of the transfigured Jesus with the Law and the Prophets – they realize that the true Feast of Tabernacles has come. On the mountain they learn that Jesus himself is the living Torah, the complete Word of God. On the mountain they see the ‘power’ (dynamis) of the Kingdom that is coming in Christ” (Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 1, p. 317). And summarily, we can say that on this same mountain, the faith of the three of them regarding the messiahship and divinity of Jesus were strengthened in anticipation of the impending death of Jesus.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this better. “Christ’s Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles’ faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent onto the ‘high mountain’ prepares for the ascent to Calvary. Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: ‘the hope of glory’” (CCC 568).

The sacraments of the Church therefore has become our mountaintop experience where we encounter Christ and are spiritually transformed and strengthened to face and subdue the trials of life in anticipation of the heavenly glory. But we know that these three apostles who although enjoyed the mountaintop experience and wanted to remain there all deserted Jesus at his hour of suffering. But they would all return stronger and bolder thereafter. Peter himself wept bitterly for his disavowal; a sign of wee faith sprouting from the cracked soil of fear and doubt.

Just like the apostles, sometimes we can be so close to God and still lose sight of God’s divine presence. Every day at mass we experience Christ in the transfigured bread and wine which we receive to nourish our souls and strengthen our faith but fail to relish on the fruits of this encounter in tough times. When the going gets tough, the tough should get going. The spiritual strength we receive in the sacraments should brace us for the imminent tough times.

There are many divine encounters within and outside the holy mass that we can relish on to keep faith alive in dark times. Whenever we feel that God is not there, we should remember the times we felt so convinced that he was there. The times he saved us from a deadly illness, from bankruptcy, hunger, barrenness, joblessness, car crash that almost claimed our life and whatnot. The beauty of God’s blessings is that they can be so delightful and marvellous that we wish we could relish on them eternally. But life is no bed of roses. And we must not lose sight of God’s divine involvement in those beautiful moments of the past.

Jesus also knew joy and pain. He had his happy times on earth but also had to face a shameful and painful death. Although he cried out on the cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46) due to the agony of the cross; but he reverted and prayed: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” (Lk 23:46). What could be more telling a way to allow even an iota of faith to overshadow our humongous fears and doubts? The faith and spiritual transformation of retrospective experiences are plinths and pillars to support the weak walls of our trying times.

So today we celebrate the manifestation of Jesus’ divinity and our transformation from doubt to faith. This is precisely what happens every day at mass. And today we are gathered here once again for this special and transformative mountaintop experience as we all sit gazing at the altar of sacrifice, our mountain of transfiguration. Let us not fail to cease this holy moment; a foretaste of the heavenly encounter to fortify ourselves for the challenges at the foot of the mountain. So that when we descend from communing with God in this holy sacrifice of mass and depart once again into the world; we would be able to stand the agony of the cross that we bear and receive the hope of heavenly glory.


Lord Jesus, we thank you for the gift of your sacramental presence in the church. Help us by your grace to reap the fruits of these sacraments and receive your heavenly reward. Amen.

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