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Sunday 6th August 2017

 

Gospel

Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’ When they heard this the disciples fell on their faces overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.
  As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, ‘Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.’
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The transfiguration can be seen as a glimpse of the finishing line, as Christ’s need for encouragement, for a morale boost before setting out on the journey that would bring him to the mount of Calvary, to the summit of suffering, to the altar of the Lamb of God. It’s good to know that even Christ needed this encounter with his Father and with the traditions and holy people of his culture and his past to assure him of his mission and his identity. This was his viaticum, his divine help for the journey. For his friends the disciples, it was all very puzzling. The one they believed was going to lead them to glory was speaking of his passing which was to be accomplished in Jerusalem. They had set their sights on the glories of the Messiah and some reflected glory for themselves and here was Christ speaking of death yet being momentarily transfigured as a foretaste of the resurrection. All of this was and is so hard to understand. We want to trust in Christ and in the promises of the Scriptures but we also want the security of the world. We want to be transfigured too but we want it without having to take the road to Calvary, the road through change, suffering or death. For the disciples as for ourselves, transfiguration of our lives begins when we understand the mission and promise of Christ, and our vocation in the world and when we see and believe in the glory and transfiguration which is our destiny in Christ.

There would be another day- another hill- and the transfiguration of the face of Christ would be by pain and tears and blood this time. He would not be accompanied by his friends and representatives  of his tradition but abandoned by all but his mother and a few of the women following him. He would not be communing with   Moses and Elijah but this innocent one would be flanked by two common thieves, one repentant, the other unrepentant. He would not hear the voice of the Father affirming him as the chosen one but would cry out in protest at apparently being abandoned by God his father. His humanity would be fully exposed, his body pierced torn and vulnerable. His clothes would not be dazzlingly white, but stained by tears, sweat and blood. His seamless garments would be a cast-off to the winner of the soldiers’ lottery.  The memory of the transfiguration, the dream on the mountain top, the promise of the Scriptures, the support of the Father and of the faithful – these were the realities that sustained him, the dreams that kept his hope and faith alive in the Passion days.