for Sunday, August 6, 2017
Today we celebrate the Transfiguration rather than the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Normally the Transfiguration is a Feast and occurs during the week and many people don't even know that the Feast has been celebrated. But when this Feast falls on a Sunday, it takes precedence over the Sunday of Ordinary Time.
This Feast of the Transfiguration invites us to look at the mystery of Jesus Christ, living among us. This Jesus is truly God and yet truly human. At the time of His baptism and then at the time of the Transfiguration, the Divine breaks through and a voice is heard: "This is my beloved Son." The Baptism of Jesus is the beginning of His public ministry, but it is also a baptism into death, a baptism into our human condition, a baptism into the will of the Father. The Transfiguration echoes that baptism: it is a preparation for the death of the Lord, a preparation to see Him die in our human condition, a preparation for his complete accepting of the will of His father.
The first reading today comes from the Book of Daniel. We are given a vision of heaven that is full of imagination and images and symbols. Daniel is one of those who could see the Son of Man and know that a Savior was coming. The Prophets in general were able to see that God's love for His people would require a Savior to come. What that would mean was not yet clear. What was clear was the sinfulness of humanity and the love of the Father. Just as in the Transfiguration, we have the divinity of Jesus breaking through into our human situation, so also the Prophets could see that God must once again break into our human condition to draw us to Himself.
The second reading comes from the Second Letter of Peter and teaches us that the Transfiguration is given to us so that we can know the power and the majesty of the Lord Jesus. The declaration from the Father, "This is my son," is unique and helps all believe that truly, Jesus is God and has come to save us.
Today's Gospel is from Saint Matthew. We should note that the Transfiguration was experienced by Peter, James and John-not by the other Apostles or disciples or followers of Jesus-not even by Mary His Mother. Peter will be placed by Jesus as the head of His followers. James is the first to die for Jesus. John is the disciple that Jesus loved. Jesus does not always share with us his reasoning about why He does things and so we are invited to wonder-as surely did the other followers of Jesus. And even though Jesus tells these three not to share the vision with anyone until He, Jesus, has been raised from the dead, surely the others were aware that something had happened. We can try to imagine what answer these three would have given when the others asked: what happened up there?
For us, the Transfiguration draws us deeper into the mystery of Jesus. Our faith and the practice of our faith must rest on our belief that Jesus, fully human, is God. God breaks through into our human history once more in Jesus Christ. The Incarnation is not that God sent another Prophet or another Anointed one. It is that, yes, but this Prophet, this Anointed One, is God Himself, present in our human condition, One like us in all things but sin. God loves us!
Readings of the day:
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: