The Transfiguration of the Lord

08-06-2017Pastoral ReflectionsFather Brian Manning

From literature, from the theatre, from the cinema or from our own personal experience, we know that some experience can happen that will be a major or a transforming influence, This "happening" could have just recently or years ago, but its power and meaning are still strongly in our memories and in our lives. The great event is long over, but its influence and power remains until today and will be with us in our future. Today's Gospel story about the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor is certainly one of these experiences that will remain active in the memories and lives of the apostles. As they live life and dream about the future and remember the past, the insights and understandings that they will have and gain will sustain them throughout the many days of their lives.

Our three scriptures passages of this Feast Day and also Sunday are imbued with light that is brilliant, yet also allows us to see. Our passage from the dramatic seer and prophet Daniel re­lates for us of a time of everlasting dominion. In this section there are many images of victory abounding and overwhelming, and also those who listen understand that they are called to live in the hope of promises fulfilled. In the bible we learn and know that when life has become hellish and desperate, dramatic visionary writings usually make their appearance. In faith we learn that these writing are filled with promise, and they require and offer hope. Today's reading from Dan­iel is based upon hope as its drama reaches great height.

The selection from 2 Peter, which is one of the last New Testament letters written, addresses the great problem and question of the troubling delay of the long-awaited Second Coming of the Lord. To this worn out and newly formed community, God's majestic triumph certainly seemed very long in coming.

We must admit, however, that the author of 2 Peter expresses his absolute confidence in the triumphant coming of the Lord. He recounts this peak experience and he forthrightly informs those who doubt and whose faith is shaken that the Lord most certainly reigns now and will just as certainly come in glory.

It is important to note that the Transfiguration is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Bear in mind another story is also recorded three times, namely the baptism of Jesus. Both stories are called theophanies (divine manifestations). Simultaneously they hide and reveal the presence and action of God. At Jesus' baptism, he first accepts his mission; in the Transfiguration, Jesus comes to understand his mission as a Passover from death to life. Both sto­ries deliberately close with essentially the same words "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," and "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him."

In the Gospel we learn that Peter understood the meaning of the Lord's transfiguration. The letter of 2 Peter is the result of Peter's reflections. He uses a clearly different image of under­standing: the image of quiet lamplight, the steady flame tended by those who are awake and whose hope burns through the night "until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."

The reality of the life-giving Lord is inside us; we can take it along. It sustains us when we turn to the work of every day. We cannot keep up peak experiences, but we can tend the steady lamps that light our way and soften the night. Do you tend and live special moments of faith and insight that God has given you?