In today’s Gospel, Peter wishes to prolong the transfiguration experience as he proposes to build tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Dazzled by a vision of divine glory, he did not want to go back to the everyday struggles of life. However, what he experienced was only a foretaste of the heavenly glory. It was not the main deal. We too can think of moments in our own life when we felt the awesome power of God. We’ve all experienced incredibly profound moments of joy that we wished would not end.
Unfortunately, such occasions do not endure because we cannot achieve supreme happiness here on earth. With every scientific breakthrough, we realize how much more we do not know. Every invention, instead of offering durable satisfaction, rather opens a whole new vista of opportunities begging to be explored. The invention of television was a revolutionary moment that changed the way people lived. Then came the mobile phone and a whole new threshold was crossed. Next was Internet which turned our world into a global village. And the social media today, we live in the age of seamlessness interconnectedness. But, despite all these breathtaking advances, we are no happier today than a hundred years ago. The more we discover the more there is to discover. The more affluent we become the more self-centred and dissatisfied we become, and this trend will continue until Christ returns. As St Augustine says, our hearts will remain restless until they rest in God. Thus, we must look beyond the comforts and pleasures of this present life and work for a lasting happiness. We need to thirst the glory of heaven.
Returning to Peter’s excitement on the mountain, we have all had our own transfiguration moments – when we felt the overwhelming power of God, and we knew without a shadow of doubt that he was right there with us. Maybe it was a retreat. Perhaps it was our First Holy Communion. Perhaps it was the birth of a child in the family. Perhaps it was when we went to Confession after a very long time and got overwhelmed by power of grace and divine mercy. It could have been in the middle of a sickness, death or some other tragedy in the family, and we felt the hand of God comforting us. Perhaps it was a seemingly helpless situation, and someone came to our aid when all hopes had been lost. Such are the moments that make us cry out, like Jacob after his ladder from heaven experience: “The Lord is in this place, and I did not know it” (Gen. 28:16).
God gives us those moments for a reason, just like he did to Peter, James and John at the transfiguration mountain. Such moments are designed to give us a glimpse of the greater glory that lies ahead. Jesus knew that his passion was imminent and that his disciples would be shaken by the events, and so he lets them see his glory so that they may draw strength and consolation from it when difficulties arise. He wanted to equip them against discouragements when he was no longer with them. Equally, our own joyful experiences are meant to prepare us for difficulties, to assure us of the eternal consolation that awaits those who persevere till the end.
Our glorious experiences on earth are a reminder that our work remains unfinished, until we rest in Christ. The two men who appeared with Jesus at the transfiguration each had an unfinished business. Moses worked extremely hard for his people but was only able to see the Promised Land from a distance – he did not enter. Elijah’s also worked tremendously hard for God and his people, but his mission ended abruptly as he was snatched up to heaven by a chariot. Their appearance at the transfiguration indicates that their work (The Law and the Prophecy) was to find fulfilment only in Christ. Jesus is the ultimate Lawgiver and Prophet in whom all our efforts and mountain experiences find fulfilment. As we see later in the Emmaus story, Jesus opened the minds of the two disciples, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” (Luke 24:27) And even before his death, Moses told the people of Israel: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him” (Deut. 18:15).
Therefore, the transfiguration is a proof of the divine identity and mission of Jesus for the three disciples. It was also a validation of his communion with the Father. The voice from heaven confirms him to be the Son of God. The cloud symbolizes the presence of God as the three apostles learn that Jesus is the Son of God, whom they must listen to. The appearance of Moses and Elijah shows that Jesus was not just John, or Elijah, or one of the prophets as some people thought. He is the new Lawgiver who will institute a new and everlasting covenant through his death and resurrection. He has come to rescue humanity from the bondage of sin and death. The transfiguration also confirms that Jesus’ mission was not according to the Law and the Prophets, but the will of God for him.
Dear friends, Jesus invites us today to reflect on our own glorious moments and be moved to draw fresh breath and renewal from his fountain of mercy, so that we can live like true disciples. Every Eucharistic celebration is a transfiguration experience, a foretaste of the eternal banquet. Therefore, let today’s feast revive our spirits, and inspire us to approach the divine throne of mercy with faith and confidence. May the Lord give us each a glimpse of his glory today and sustain our hunger for the glories of heaven. Amen.