Transfiguration of the Lord
First reading: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Responsoral Psalm: 97:1-2, 5-6, 9
Second reading: 2 Peter 1:16-19
Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9
By Kevin Perrotta
You don’t have to work to discover the message of today’s Gospel. Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, Lord of all. And the implications are made as explicit as possible: Listen to him! Do what he says!
Each of us can grapple with this without much explanation. Where should Jesus’ lordship over me make a difference in how I’m living? What particular word is he speaking to me that I need to respond to?
Yet the transfiguration may seem less accessible than other moments in Jesus’ life. Singing Christmas carols, who hasn’t had the sense of being right there at his birth? Praying the Stations of the Cross or joining in the Good Friday liturgy, who hasn’t felt close to Jesus in his suffering?
But Jesus’ transfiguration, at least for me, seems distant, hard to connect to. He restricted the event to three of his disciples, leaving the others at the foot of the hill. Why should I feel that I have an invitation? Who am I to expect to look on the uncreated glory of the Son of God?
It is possible to celebrate this feast as an outsider. “Great that it happened, but it’s way out of my range of experience.”
But that can’t be right.
Jesus makes his whole life — birth, ministry, last supper, death, resurrection — present in the Mass. The liturgical calendar is not a PowerPoint presentation — a series of slides showing things that Jesus did with other people 2,000 years ago. The Spirit wants to make these events present to us, so that we can enter into them — in the liturgy and in the rest of our lives.
The Gospel says that Jesus took only Peter, James and John up the mountain that day. It doesn’t say that he doesn’t want to reveal himself today to Olivia, Robby, Jessica, Alfredo — or Kevin.
And perhaps, in fact, we could say that in some way we have had some glimpse of revelation — some moment of experiencing Jesus, his glory, his light? And perhaps, beneath our (false?) humility, that is what we want — to join the disciples on the mountain and let Jesus reveal his glory to us?
If so, we can find hope in reading the first verse of today’s Gospel as spoken to us. “Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain.” He took them. As they made their way up the steep terrain, I picture him occasionally giving them a hand up — a strong, carpentry-developed hand. “Guys, there’s something I have for you up here. Come and see.”
“Olivia, Robby, Jessica, Alfredo, Kevin … Come and see.”
When have I gotten a glimpse of Jesus’ glory? What difference has this made for my life?
Kevin Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks with the Bible” series (Loyola Press), teaches part-time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.