August 6, 2023 Transfiguration Day
As story takes us up to a mountaintop, one can be sure something dramatic is going to happen—indeed, that something deeply revelling is going to happen. Luke 9 does not disappoint us. But the drama up there on that mountain seems to have been only partly intended to make an impression on the disciples.
This reading looks to be a continuation from last week’s reading from Matthew with Jesus telling two parables: one about the smallest seed being planted and turning into a huge tree with lots of fruit and the second parable about a shop owner looking and finding a fine pearl. He then goes and sells everything in order to buy that pearl.
Jesus says, “Every student of the Scriptures who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like someone who brings out new and old treasures from the storeroom.
The gospel today tells us about Jesus going up the mountain with Peter, John and James to pray.
This involves the Transfiguration, which is a challenging passage …St. Thomas Aquinas said, “The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud.” For us, it is important that the Holy Spirit is present at the Transfiguration.
In a wider context of Luke is that Jesus prepares to make his final trek toward Jerusalem (see Luke 9:51),
Regarding the Spirit
It is interesting to note that although Luke tells us that Jesus’ garments shone as bright as a flash of lightning, we are not told that Jesus’ face shone, only that it “changed.” In the Greek this is literally that the ‘eidos’ of his face changed, the image, the appearance, of his face was altered. Maybe the true image of God, the image of the Son, the spitting image of the Son who from the Father all over again.
Regarding the Father, the Archbishop of York touched a highly sensitive nerve when he mentioned about “Our Father, who art in heaven”. So Father came from “abba”, a softer, more intimate word, closer to daddy. So “abba” is to speak of God as a loving presence, not an austere despot.
So in Scripture, it assures us that we were all created in the image of Lord God, but as we hustle past people in the malls, as we jostle next to them on the train, as we get annoyed with them when they crowd us in our airplane seat, we miss it. But as Frederick Buechner says in in his book “Beyond Words”, there are moments of transfiguration in all our lives. No, not exactly on a par with what happened to Jesus but still . . .
The disciples missing Jesus transfiguration
So something of the core truth of the gospel starts to come out.
In the reading it also tells us that the Peter and his companions were very sleepy, maybe the sleepiness of the disciples is emblematic for how often they had missed the glory of Jesus when it shined or appeared right in front of them day in and day out throughout Jesus’ ministry.
When the voice of heaven speaks, the words are spoken to the disciples rather than to Jesus and, second, the end of this brief speech includes the directive, “Listen to him.” Luke does not record any immediate words from Jesus, which appeas to signify that the disciples must listen to all he says and, particularly, to the message he proclaims through his accomplishment later at Jerusalem.
That Lord God desires freedom and life for the people. That Lord God is with us and for us through all things.
Yes, we are called to listen to him and, having been transformed by our listening, to then share the same message of freedom, love, release, and acceptance with others through both our words and deeds.