The Transfiguration of the Lord [A]
Daniel 7:9-10,13-14 + 2 Peter 1:16-19 + Matthew 17:1-9
“Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church related to the Feast of the Transfiguration:
CCC 554-556: A Foretaste of the Kingdom: the Transfiguration
August 6th is the date of the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor. This event is so important in the life of the Church’s liturgical year that the feast is celebrated at Holy Mass even when August 6th falls on a Sunday. In that case, the Transfiguration takes the place of the current Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Because the Transfiguration is recorded in the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, each year we hear one of these three records of the events that took place at Mount Tabor. This year, we hear St. Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration. In this account we have a miniature of the entire Gospel, and a miniature of the manner in which God has always made His Divine Revelation known.
God, like any loving parent, wants us to share in His love, but at the same time He wants us to enter into that love as freely as possible. In other words, God wants us to come to Him of our own accord, because the more freely we come to Him, the more we grow into His love.
But as a loving and understanding parent, God knows we are often weak and need His help. It’s true that God gave us an intellect by which we could of our own power reason that God exists, that He loves us, and that He wants us to imitate that love. It’s also true that God gave us a free will by which to imitate Him, even if only imperfectly. However, because our human intellect and will are often very weak, God constantly gives us signs of His presence, in order to remind us of Who He is and how much He loves us.
God did not have to inspire the human authors of Sacred Scripture, but He did so in order to give us a record of His love. God did not have to choose twelve men to be His apostles, in order to share the Sacraments of His love. But He did so to strengthen us in this earthly life of ours, since we face so many setbacks, failures, and disappointments.
God the Son was transfigured before the eyes of three of these apostles not simply so that they could say, “How good it is for us to be here.” The Transfiguration occurred so that the apostles would hear God the Father’s voice, saying, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” Yet coming down the mountain, what does Jesus say that the apostles needed to listen to? He points their attention ahead to His death on the Cross. The entire scene of the Transfiguration is a prelude to the sorrow of Good Friday in the words that Jesus speaks going down the mountain, yet also a promise of the glory of Easter Sunday in the radiance of Jesus’ appearance on the mountaintop.
When we share in the Eucharist—the offering of Christ’s self-sacrifice on the Cross—God our loving Father nourishes us with the life of His Son. In the Eucharist we see how Jesus’ Transfiguration on Mount Tabor bears further meaning. This sacred event from Christ’s earthly life foreshadows the transformation of Jesus’ death on the Cross into the power of His Resurrection. In turn, Jesus’ death and resurrection bear the power to transform the sacrifices of our daily lives into the opening of our lives to God’s divine life.
Transfiguration by Titian (1490-1576)