Genesis 15:5-12,17-18, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 9:28-36
The Transfiguration Experience: A Foretaste of the Future Glory.
The reading on the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ is one of those recurrent readings that appear up to three or four times in a single liturgical year. Thereby, sometimes forcing someone to repeat an already reflected theme again and again.
Hence, with this reading falling in the Lenten season, we have to analyse deeply what the church is telling us with the transfiguration experience of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As the Lenten season begins, the church reminds us with the ash Wednesday that dust we are and unto dust, we shall return.
On the first Sunday of Lent, the church encourages us that in the journey of life we shall surely encounter temptations. But the fact that we have temptations does not entail that we must fall into them.
Therefore, we need the strength to conquer temptations when they come. Now on today’s second Sunday, the church reminds us with the season of Lent that we all have a destination in life. And what is awaiting us is better than what we are experiencing now.
The appearance of the heavenly realities reminds us that heaven is not a fairy tale. Then the glory that surrounds the mountain of transfiguration, therefore, previews the type of glory that is awaiting every child of God at the end of our lives.
But to be partakers of this glory, we have to change. We have to transform from our former lives to live a life in Jesus Christ. The transfiguration experience is a preview of the type of glory that is awaiting us. It also reminds us that life is only a journey towards a destination.
As Peter gazes onto the Lord, we shall gaze onto Jesus to experience the glory that is awaiting us. In 1 Corinthians 2:9, Saint Paul says that “That it is written that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Therefore, this glory is readily available for those who transform their lives for the sake of the love they have for God.
What Is Transfiguration?
The word transfiguration simply indicates that there was a change of form or appearance. The word “trans’ ‘ simply indicates a movement from one place to another.
Through it, we have words like transformation, transport, transfer etc. Figuration then indicates shaping something into a figure, a representation or form. Therefore, when we talk about transfiguration we talk about a change in the appearance of Jesus.
In the gospel, Luke narrates that as Jesus was praying, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly, there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory.
Today’s appearance of Jesus, therefore, gives us a glimpse of his full heavenly glory, “His face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light”.
To understand the need for transfiguration today let us have a thorough walk through the scriptures especially before the transfiguration of today happened.
Understanding the Need for Transfiguration.
The transfiguration experience today happened in Luke 9:28-36. Therefore, to understand the reason for this encounter, we have to read the verses before this particular pericope.
Beginning from verses 10 of Luke 9, Jesus fed the multitude. After the feeding of the multitude, they went to a private place from verse 18. There, Jesus asks them, “Who does the crowd say that I am”.
They gave their different opinions and then Jesus asked his disciples the same question. Then, Peter confessed that Jesus is the Messiah.
From verses 22 and 23 following Jesus began to teach them that the messiah must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
Then, this episode ends with Jesus’ teaching on the coming glory of God’s kingdom which He has prepared for them.
He then warns them that Whoever is ashamed of Him and His words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and the holy angels (Luke 9:26-27).
Therefore, The transfiguration of Jesus follows after this encounter(Luke 9:20).
The transfiguration then provides a preview or a foretaste of the glory that Jesus is talking about. The glory that awaits His disciples. This is the Glory they will all experience in God’s kingdom.
Also through the transfiguration, Jesus confirms to the three disciples that He is truly the messiah as Peter once confessed. Through the transfiguration experience, He reveals to them the glory that surrounds Him.
Therefore, talking about suffering does not mean He is no longer the messiah. Remember that in Matthew’s account, Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Jesus for saying that He would suffer (Matthew 16:22). Therefore, the transfiguration experience reveals to the disciples that Jesus is not ordinary.
Also during the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah spoke with Jesus on the exodus that awaits Him in Jerusalem. In essence, the suffering, crucifixion, death and then resurrection that is forthcoming. After the suffering, there comes a time of resurrection.
Therefore, the transfiguration experience is a call for the disciples to look beyond the suffering of this present moment to the glory that awaits them in the future.
In the same vein, the transfiguration experience calls us to focus on our destination.
Life must surely come to an end and what awaits us is better than what we see presently.
Therefore, the lenten season calls us also to transform our lives to be part of this glory that awaits us.
We have to Look Beyond to What Awaits Us.
In the journey of our Christian life, we have to look beyond the present moments to the glory that is awaiting every child of God. We have to look beyond our challenges.
We have to look beyond this worldly pleasure. Therefore, the Lenten season is a call to remind us that we have a destination and the glory that lies ahead of us is better than the illusory pleasures of this world.
To Experience His Power and Glory.
Through the transfiguration, the Apostles experienced a foretaste of the glory of the future life. They had an encounter with the power and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
They were opportune to have this because they were with Jesus. Other disciples were not there and they did not experience the transfiguration.
Therefore, when we remain far away from Jesus, we deprive ourselves of the glory that comes through his presence.
In essence, close contact with Jesus is the secret of total transformation.
We have to truly remain close to Him. When we remain close to Jesus we experience His power. We experience that divine Glory that comes from Him and through His presence.
If you truly want to experience the power of Jesus, pray for an encounter. Only an encounter with Jesus will convince you.
Therefore, to have a foretaste of the power and glory of Jesus, let us develop the love of being close to Him and being in His presence.
The Need For Our Transfiguration Experience and How to.
When Jesus transfigured, He also reminds us of the need for our transfiguration. To understand this, let us go to the root word.
The Greek word used to describe the word “transfiguration” is metamorphosis or metemorphothe which is a derivative of the English word, metamorphosis.
We use the word popularly whenever we are referring to the change or transformation of caterpillar to butterfly, a maggot to an adult fly, the changing of a tadpole into a frog.
Therefore, when we talk of our transfiguration, we mean the change and transformation needed for us to attain the glory that is awaiting us. It means to change from our former lives to a new life. It means to seek to be like Jesus, to live a life of holiness and purity.
At the transfiguration, the face and clothes of Jesus appear white and dazzling. It means giving Jesus the opportunity into our lives to change and make us new creatures, to be true citizens of heaven.
We are looking forward to being like Jesus. This is the reason Saint Paul says in the second reading that we are awaiting a saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ who will change our lowly body to conform with His glorified body by that power that enables him to bring all things into subjection to himself.
Therefore, our transfiguration experience is seeking to be close to Jesus, appearing immaculate at heart, confessing our sins and keeping our hearts free from condemnation, immorality, guilt, killing, hatred and every form of sinful living.
We have to separate ourselves from anything that will prevent us from having a foretaste of that heavenly glory. The question then is “how and what do we do? They are:
1. Having A Mountainous Experience.
a.To transfigure, Jesus went to the mountain. The mountain in Hebrew’s understanding is a place of prayer. It is a place of encounter with God. The mountain experience is a time of interaction and communication with the divine. So, it is a moment we decide to have interaction with God and listen to Him.
b.. It is a time of meeting with the divine. Moses meets God on the mountain (Exodus 34:29-35). Mountains have a logical religious symbolism for Jewish cultures. As a result, God often reveals himself on a mountaintop.
It is a moment God would reveal who He is to us. It happens when we decide to have time for Him and meet Him often. In this Lenten season, do not joke with visitation to the Blessed Sacrament. Make it a lifestyle.
c.At Mt Sinai Moses receives the Ten Commandments, In today’s experience, Jesus had a discussion with Elijah and Moses at the mountain. Therefore it is during our mountain experience that we receive special messages that will help us in life.
We need to have a particular time with God. It was on this mountain today that God speaks and even the apostles heard His voice.
Therefore, it is during the mountain experiences that God talks to us, heart to heart. It is a time of divine encounter.
d. At Mount Sinai, Moses conversed with God, and then was filled with a great cloud of glory. To the extent that the Israelites could not withstand the light that reflects from His face. (Ex. 24:12-18; Ex. 33:11-23; 34:4-6,8).
Elijah ascended Mount Horeb where he encountered God and heard the voice of God in the “gentle breeze”.
In today’s transfiguration, the same Elijah and Moses stand on the mountain peak with Jesus Christ.
Moses and Elijah are giving us a very powerful secret, that to have an encounter with Jesus, to feel His glory and power, to converse with Him and interact with Him on how to experience our exodus from sin to God’s glory, we must develop a time of mountainous experience. This is the time to be alone with My God. It is a time we tell God where we did well and where we do not do well.
2. To Be fully Awake.
Before Jesus goes into agony in Luke 21:34-36, He tells His apostles
“Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man
And when we read through the gospel of today, you will discover that during the moment of transfiguration, Peter and His companions, John and James were seriously enjoying their sleep.
They were not fully aware of all that happened at the mountain of transfiguration but as the transfiguration was going on, they become fully awake, that is why they saw the glory of Jesus and the two men standing with Jesus.
Then, It was when Elijah and Moses were about to depart that Peter began to talk about making three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.
The glory that they witnessed on the mountain, inspired Peter to ask that they build tent there on the mountain.
Peter must be so immersed and confounded to have such an encounter that He longs that it is better they stay there forever.
In essence, if not that Peter and other the apostles at that moment became awake, they would have missed that glorious encounter.
Today, many Christians are asleep spiritually. Our spiritual life is so down that we find it very difficult to go close to God. Some Christians do not even have time for God.
We seem to have time for the world without caring for our spiritual growth. Therefore, when we become asleep spiritually, we miss our transfiguration experience. Therefore to have a foretaste of the future glory, we have to be spiritually alert.
Imagine if the apostles were still enjoying their sleep when the transfiguration happened.
3. Listen to Him.
While Peter was still speaking” a cloud came and cast a shadow over them and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.
In essence, Peter was speaking out his human limitations and imperfections, then a cloud that signifies the presence of the Holy Spirit covers Peter and His companions. Then from the cloud came a voice which says “this is my beloved son listen to Him”
What this transfiguration experience means is that in the moments of our imperfections, we need the presence of God, we need the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit to cover our imperfections and lift us.
Then we have to take the word of God as our guide. Through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit and by listening to Jesus, we will reach perfection. We become perfect by living by His word. Doing this is already a preparation for the glory that is to come.
Therefore, let us not be misled by the words of men who speak out of worldly inclinations, men who conjure things up out of their human understanding.
Many will tell you that Jesus never existed. Many will say a lot of things to mislead your faith. Let us be properly guided by the word of God. Do not swallow everything you see on social media so that no one will mislead your soul. The word of God is our guide.
1. Because of the rapid influence of science and technology, modernism and neopaganism, many Christians do not believe in the afterlife again.
Many of us have lost faith in God even. While so many Christians are only interested in building mansions and enjoying the earth, beautifying only the body and neglecting the soul.
We are like Peter in the gospel who had an encounter with the glory of God instead of seeking how to be part of this glory, he asked to pitch his tent in the world.
When Isaiah saw the glory of God In Isaiah 6:1-5. Isaiah shouted and affirmed His imperfections and limitations. Immediately the angel came from the altar and sanctified Him.
But today, Peter had the same encounter, instead of longing to be like Jesus, he was only interested in building a tent. We did not even hear from the other apostles. May be they were afraid to speak.
Therefore, many of us are only interested in the tent now rather than seeking to be part of God’s glory. This is the reason we can kill to get what we want but will never make any single effort to be close to God.
Many Christians are still spiritually down even during the Lenten season. What are you doing this Lenten season to rise spiritually?
What are we doing to be close to God again? The world in which we all are interested in building our tents will soon come to an end? Where will our souls be at the end of our lives?
2. When we read through the transfiguration experience, we will observe one thing; We will observe that the moment of transfiguration happened immediately after Jesus begins to pray.
While Jesus was climbing the mountain, Jesus did not transfigure. While he was walking with the apostles, there was no transfiguration but immediately he began to pray, things began to change.
This transfiguration experience reveals to us the efficacy and power of prayers. Prayer is a secret of transfiguration experience. This goes beyond praying for a particular intention or a miracle.
One thing with sincere prayer life is that it changes you. The more you pray, the more you come close to God and the more you come close to God, the more your life changes.
Prayer has a great transforming power if we can take it very seriously. Therefore, quit taking prayer as a burden and quit praying only when you are in trouble. Prayer should be part of our lives as Christians.
3. During this lenten season, the church invites us to witness the splendour of the personality of Jesus. He tells us in Matthew 5:48, be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Therefore, the transfiguration experience is a call to imitate and live like our Saviour. He transfigured into the light. And in John 8:26, He says that He is the light of the world.
Therefore let us live like Him. Let us realise that sin brings darkness into our lives. Also, let us seek the holiness of life and be like Jesus.
Let us also transfigure to be a light to others. We should not be changing towards sinful lives. We should not change to be darkness in the lives of others, leading them astray.
Our transfiguration is to be light to souls who are wallowing in darkness. When people meet you, they should meet positive change and not otherwise.
4. In today’s transfiguration experience, there was the appearance of Moses and Elijah who came down from heaven to interact with Jesus.
This first of all ascertain that heaven is real. It is not a fairy tale. Also, it affirms Jesus as the mediator between heaven and earth. He is the connecting point between us and the Father. Therefore, we need to be close to Him. A life without Jesus loses a lot.
Saint John Chrysostom explains the presence of Moses and Elijah in three ways. First, they represent the Law and the Prophets (Moses received the Law from God, and Elijah was a great prophet).
Secondly, both experienced visions of God (Moses on Mount Sinai and Elijah on Mount Carmel);
Third, they represent the living and the dead (Elijah, the living, because he was taken up into heaven by a chariot of fire, and Moses, the dead because he did experience death).
Then, both coming together means that Jesus is the fulfilment of the law and the prophet. He is the one to meet on the mountain, Therefore, He is the alpha and Omega. He is the Lord of the Living and the dead. Everything is with Him, in Him and through Him.
5. To transfigure today Jesus becomes in the form of light, dazzling. We remember that in John 1:5, John says He is the light that shines in the darkness, and which darkness cannot overcome.
In John 8:12, Jesus personally says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Therefore, through the transfiguration, Jesus reveals that He is truly the light. What does this mean for us? It means that if Jesus is the light, any meeting that we have with Him is a moment of illumination.
The more we meet Jesus, the more he reveals to us more about Him and the mysteries of the Kingdom. The more we meet Him, the more he reveals to us the need to run away from sinful living. Any meeting with Jesus is a moment of teaching because he will bless you with wisdom.
Any meeting with Jesus is a moment of mercy, a time of renewal and a moment of spiritual change.
No one meets Him and remains the same, therefore if we also want to be a light, let us learn to meet the light of the world Jesus Christ. Visit the Blessed Sacrament often.
In essence, if Jesus is the light and the Blessed Sacrament is Jesus, then the Blessed Sacrament is light.
To visit the Blessed Sacrament often is a day to day encounter with the Divine Light.
This type of encounter is life-changing.
May God bless and be with you. Happy Sunday!!