A glimpse of his resurrected glory
Bishop Peter Muhich
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Second Sunday of Lent, March 5, 2023
Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain and was transfigured before them.
We, human beings, have a tendency to keep mementos. Keepsakes of important events, special gifts given to us by special people in our lives. A thoughtful card or a note. We like to keep these things because they remind us of important and supportive people and times in our lives. We all have mementos. Keeping mementos is a very human thing to do. We like to remember the good things in our lives, especially when times aren’t so good.
Today’s Gospel gives us an account of a very special event, the transfiguration of our Lord. The Lord took Peter, James, and John, the inner circle really of his twelve apostles. They had been fishing partners before the Lord called them and they left everything to follow him. He took them one day, just this small group, up a high mountain and was transfigured before them.
We hear the description in Matthew’s Gospel this Sunday, his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. Moses and Elijah appeared conversing with Jesus. There was this bright cloud that cast a shadow over them and a voice from the cloud that said, “this is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”
What an extraordinary experience. It must have been really something to be there that day.
And we hear Peter’s reaction. He wants to fashion a memento of this amazing experience. To construct three booths or tents on the spot to memorialize what happened that day. Now Jesus doesn’t let Peter do that but says that he and the others can tell people about this event once he is raised from the dead. They’ll be curious about this until later, but their proclaiming of the transfiguration would later be told as part of the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection and they would keep it as a living memorial in place in the life of the church in the testimony of preaching they gave, which of course, came to form the Gospel. So, we have this account in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
So why did the Lord do this? Why do we proclaim the transfiguration every Second Sunday in Lent? This might be familiar to you. Every Second Sunday of Lent we read this account from one of the Gospels. We also read it again on the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 6th.
So why the transfiguration? Two reasons. First, the Lord Jesus let Peter, James, and John, see his glory that day to strengthen their faith for the challenges that lie ahead. He knows where he’s going to accomplish our salvation. His passion and death have to be endured to bring about our salvation. It would seem that all would be lost before the resurrection was revealed. And they too, later, would share in his passion and death as his apostles and they would need to remember his divine glory and the promise of sharing in his resurrection.
The word transfiguration here in Greek is metamorphe. Metamorphosis, we have that word in our language. It comes from the Greek. “Meta” which means beyond. Morphe, “form.” It means to move or show a higher form beyond what we normally see. Jesus lets his divine glory come out and be seen. His true nature.
We too, the second reason for the transfiguration is, we too need to realize the Lords’ divine power in our lives as we live as his disciples. Including our own, as we hear the second reading this Sunday, our own share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.
Transfiguration. Metamorphe. The Lord Jesus remains who he really is. He’s the same person, but he lets his divine glory show forth. This is a glimpse of his resurrected glory. He will look like this in his resurrection appearances. Luminous. Kind of outside of time. Able to move at the speed of his thoughts. On that mountain that day, they get a glimpse of his divine glory to reassure them.
Moses and Elijah here represent the law and the prophets, the great parts of the Old Testament and they’re the only figures in the Old Testament to hear God’s voice on Mount Sinai. So this is an echo or a reminder of those appearances of God to these great men. Moses and Elijah are here witnessing to the surpassing glory of Jesus as the lawgiver and prophet of a new covenant.
We are not only blessed to have this living memento of the transfiguration in the proclamation of the Gospel on the Second Sunday of Lent, we also have the same divine person Jesus Christ here with us in the Eucharist. While his glory remains hidden under the appearance of bread and wine in the Mass, the whole ministry of the Lord, all of his miracles in deeds including the transfiguration and his saving death and resurrection, are made present to us and are contained in this most important of the sacraments. His most powerful gift to us.
So this week, I invite you as we continue our Lenten journey after this second Sunday of Lent, to remind yourself every day of the Lord’s glory and power especially when times are tough. He’s with you in prayer. He’s with you in the scriptures. And remember he’s especially with you in the Eucharist, his most awesome of gifts. Remember his glory and take courage. He will help you face whatever challenges lie ahead or are present today in your life.