Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; His face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light. (Mt. 17:1-2 )
The Transfiguration of Jesus is one of the mysteries of the life of Christ. In fact, when the Holy Father, (soon to be Saint!) Blessed John Paul II decided to propose five new mysteries of the Rosary, he included the Transfiguration in his “Luminous Mysteries.” The other mysteries are the Baptism of Our Lord, the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, and the Institution of the Eucharist.
So what does the Transfiguration mean? It’s literally a “change in appearance” of Jesus. It’s described as a brightness emanating from Him.
But what is the mystery behind the event? The Fathers of the Church wrote a great deal about it. Some pointed to the presence of Moses and Elijah as witnesses to the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets in the person of Jesus. Some focused on the Father’s declaration of Divine Sonship (“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”). Some pointed to the bright cloud, and some stressed that the occasion was being a revelation of the glory of Christ as a preparation for the apostles who were soon to experience the scandal of the cross.
Ultimately, the Transfiguration points to Heaven. At the top of a mountain, earth joins to Heaven – our ultimate destination. Lent is like a 40 day journey to remind us of the 40 year journey of the Israelites in the desert. And just as the Israelites reached the Promised Land, we hope to reach the Promised Land of Heaven. But to get there, we must go through the Cross of Good Friday and the Resurrection of Easter.
The Transfiguration is not just a revelation of Christ’s identity and glory, it’s a goal for us. One day, we hope to have transfigured, glorious bodies and to be united in the glory of the Holy Trinity.
You might notice that our parish is very involved with ministry to the poor, especially through our St Anthony Fund and our Society of St Vincent de Paul. Heaven is a place of unity that we will share with all of God’s faithful, rich and poor alike. By charity we prefigure the unity of Heaven by showing solidarity with the poor on earth.
(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty