Living Flame

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ARTICLE: Feast of Transfiguration. Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

August 4, 2017

TRANSFIGURATION

Matthew 17:1-9

 

The word "transfigured" is a very interesting word. The Greek word is "metamorpho" and it means to transform, literally or figuratively to metamorphose, or to change. The word is a verb that means to change into another form. It also means to change the outside to match the inside. The prefix "meta" means to change and the "morphe" means form. In the case of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ it means to match the outside with the reality of the inside. To change the outward so that it matches the inward reality. Jesus' divine nature was "veiled" (Hebrews 10:20) in human form and the transfiguration was a glimpse of that glory. Therefore, the transfiguration of Jesus Christ displayed the Shekinah glory of God incarnate in the Son. The voice of God attesting to the truth of Jesus' Son-ship was the second time God's voice was heard. The first time was at Jesus' baptism into His public ministry by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).

Therefore, the transfiguration of Jesus Christ was a unique display of His divine character and a glimpse of the glory, which Jesus had before He came to earth in human form. This truth is emphasized for us in a passage in the Apostle Paul's letter to Philippians. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form (morphe) of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form (morphe) of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:5-11).

 

There were three important mountains where our Lord proclaimed himself to the world.

 

On the one he preached the Beatitudes. On the same day perhaps he signed his own death warrant.

 

On the second he manifested his glory, the Mount of Transfiguration. He was shining with light. The disciples could not see that glory. Perhaps they were unconscious.

 

On the third he became the victim on Calvary. He lost himself and disfigured.

 

Jesus wanted to show his glory and at the same time correct the wrong notion of the Messiah they had.

 

We know from the Gospels that Peter had vehemently protested against the Cross.

 

James and John had been throne seekers.

All the three would later on sleep in the Garden of Gethsemane during his agony.

 

Therefore to believe in the mystery of Calvary they needed a powerful demonstration of his glory; therefore the need of the Mount of Transfiguration.

 

The event of transfiguration takes place when he was praying.

 

Prayer transfigures. It is prayer that is the hall mark of Christians. Every page of the Gospels speaks about the marvels prayer can offer us. In the life of Jesus we find the spirit of prayer always present.

 

At the transfiguration we find Moses and Elijah. Moses is the law giver and Elijah the greatest of the prophets.

 

They signify that Jesus did not come to abolish the ‘old’ but to perfect it. Prayer strengthens our bond, increases respect towards others as well as to rules and regulations.

 

Transfiguration:

 

The various events had been an experience of transfiguration.

The day of our first communion, the day we got married, the latter celebrations of birthdays, anniversaries, jubilees etc., or celebrations of any other occasion The relatives and family members appreciating us for our sacrifice etc.

 

The desire and intentions of Peter who told our Lord:

 

“Peter said to Jesus, Master, how good it is that we are here! Shall we make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah? but he spoke without knowing what he was saying: (Matthew 17:1-9)

 

Peter was saying something without knowing what it was. He was intoxicated/filled with fear or terrified with the experience. It is a normal tendency in us to be terrified, filled with fear or awe inspired? Either with success, with good and pleasant moments, or joy, elation, victory, thrills, and so on. We make mighty promises to God. The problem is when the reality arises. When real circumstances come in our lives are we ready to take challenges?

 

Peter was the one who more than twice protested against the cross. He always wanted glory with out the cross. It is he who dissuaded the Lord from going to Jerusalem.

 

The temporary happiness is not lasting. Even sometimes the spiritual happiness we experience is not lasting. We pray, perhaps we have the joy of prayer only for sometime. What should be our attitude?

 

There are various ways by which we are transfigured:

 

Transfiguration through humiliating experiences.

Transfiguration through defeating experiences.

Transfiguration through failures.

Transfiguration through sickness, and bodily changes.

Transfiguration through the death of a dear one.

Transfiguration through community experiences.

Transfiguration through loss of name and fame.

Transfiguration through loss of friendship

Transfiguration through dark night experiences

 

The real transfiguration will take place when we ourselves die on the Cross of Christ. We are called to be lost. We need to fall to ground like the seed and die in order to give life. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone and cannot give life. Transfiguration when we are misunderstood. Jesus was misunderstood.

- Prayer helps us to become more sensitive towards God and neighbor.

 

When should we pray:

Let us look at the life of Jesus Himself:

 

- When the disciples came asked Jesus “Lord teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1)

 

- He prayed in the evening after the multiplication of bread (Mk 14:23)

 

- Jesus prayed in the morning at a lonely place (Mk1:35)

 

- He prayed at night before choosing the disciples (Lk 6:12)

 

- He prayed without ceasing (Lk 5:16)

 

- Prays at his baptism (Lk 3:21)

 

- He prayed before calling his disciples (Lk 6:12)

 

- He prays before his transfiguration (Lk 9:28)

 

- He prays for Peters faith (Lk 22:31-31)

 

- He prays for the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:15-17)

 

- He prays before raising Lazarus (Jn 11:41)

 

- He prays at the triumphant entry to Jerusalem (Jn 12:27)

 

- He prays at the last supper (Jn. 17:1-7)

 

- He prays for his disciples (Jn 17:6-19)

 

- He prays for all believers (Jn. 17:20-21)

 

- He prays before his passion (Lk 22:39)

 

- He prays for his executioners (Lk 23:34)

 

- He prays when he dies: to the Father (Lk 23:46)

 

 

From all these life contexts we come to know that Christ prayed always without ceasing.

 

Means to genuine prayer:

- Daily use of the Bible

- Love of neighbor

- Silence and Solitude (desert)

- Free from inordinate attachments

- Practice of virtues

- Monthly recollection

- Discernment (Gal 5:22-23)

- Visit to Blessed Sacrament

- Rosary and Vocal Prayers

- Making our room a place of prayer

- Our table a place of prayer

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza

Vancouver - Canada