On this Sunday before the start of the Lenten season, the Church has always tipped its hat to the account of Christ’s transfiguration.
The Gospel of Matthew says that Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain by themselves. “There he was transfigured in front of them. His face was shining like the sun. His clothing became as white as the light. Just then, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus.”
There are several lessons in this event:
First, Christ is God Himself. Years later, Peter would write about this day on the mountain: “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty… we were with Him on the holy mountain.” John, too, would write: “We have seen His glory, the glory He has as the only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Secondly, Christ is our Savior. We can arise and go to our Father, unafraid, certain that He will smile upon us because He says He is well-pleased with His beloved Son who was born to be for us what we were not, to do for us what we could not, to die for us that we might not, to rise for us when death said we would not. We “listen to Him” when we listen to the Scriptures.
Thirdly, Christ has prepared for us a place in a very real heaven. Here are Moses and Elijah in glory – incontestable comfort that those who have gone before us in the faith are not dead but alive with God. The Transfiguration is God’s own guarantee that Christ shall, as St. Paul put it, “transform our humble bodies to be like His glorious body,” or as the apostle John who himself stood on this mountain later wrote: “We know that when He is revealed we will be like Him, and we will see Him as He really is.”
Fourthly, Christ is our brand new life here and now. The word Matthew uses for “transfigured” or “changed” occurs two other times in the entire New Testament. Both times, it describes the transfiguration, the change that takes place in you and me when the Holy Spirit gives us to see Jesus clearly as God’s Son, our Savior, our eternal life. In Romans 12 Paul says: “Do not continue to conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” And in 2 Corinthians 3, when Paul compares the glory of Moses with the surpassing glory of Christ, he says: “All of us who reflect the Lord’s glory with an unveiled face are being transformed into His own image, from one degree of glory to another. This too is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” In other words, when we keep company with the King of glory, we take after Him. We become more and more like Him.
When the disciples looked up, says Matthew, “they saw no one except Jesus alone.” In the end, this is the only thing that counts – to see Jesus clearly. This begins when we open the Scriptures and, as the Father said on that mountain from the majestic glory, “Listen to Him.”