Today, August 6, is the Feast of the Transfiguration. Here is the reflection I gave at the Communion Service I lead this morning at All Saints Catholic Church:
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
2 Peter 1:16-19
Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So, they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. In today’s reading from the prophet Daniel, we hear the phrase or title “Son of Man.” In other contexts, the phrase “son of man” simply refers to a member of the human family, as the prophet Ezekiel is regularly called “son of man” by God when God calls him. In this sense, in reference to Jesus, it may be understood as speaking to the fullness of Jesus’ humanity, as one who with us in all things except sin.
However, in the context of Daniel’s vision, and as understood by the Sanhedrin when Jesus, later in the Gospel According to Mark, employed the title to refer to Himself, it means much more. Jesus told the Sanhedrin, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” At the end of today’s Gospel, he charges the disciples not to tell anyone what they’ve seen “except when the Son of Man rises from the dead.” Jesus will sit at the right hand of the Power, coming with the clouds of heaven. Jesus will rise from the dead. Jesus as Son of Man is the one who represents God’s people and initiates God’s kingdom.
Jesus takes the three disciples, Peter, James and John, up the mountain. There He is transfigured before them, revealed in His glory, alongside Moses and Elijah, who represent the Law and the Prophets in the tradition of Israel. Jesus is among them as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Peter’s excitement comes across as he tells Jesus that it is good that they are there, and in his thoughts to erect three tents or booths in honor of Moses, Elijah and Jesus, Peter points to the Jewish feast of Booths or Tabernacles, where the Jews erect booths to celebrate the harvest as a symbol of God’s final harvest. The feast of Booths is one that celebrates and looks forward to the end times. Peter clearly perceives that they have entered the end time of God’s final kingdom. In this, Peter reveals some understanding of Jesus’ mission as the one who represents God’s people and initiates God’s kingdom.
God speaks to them from the shadow of the cloud: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Just as at His baptism, God announced Jesus as His beloved Son, so He does at the Transfiguration. At the baptism, He spoke to Jesus: “You are my beloved Son.” Now, He speaks to the disciples: “This is my beloved Son.” After affirming Jesus in His identity and mission, He now communicates that to the disciples, who will carry on in obedience the proclamation of who Jesus is and His mission to the world. That is what God means when He tells the apostles to “Listen to him.” The word “obey” means “to listen.” Our faith is the faith of the apostles, and the faith that the apostles obediently and faithfully passed on to us is that Jesus is God’s beloved Son, the Son of Man who rose from the dead and inaugurated God’s kingdom among men.
The Second Letter of Peter affirms that it is no myth that the apostle preach, but the truth of Jesus in His power and majesty. This is the prophecy, the good news they proclaim. It is the good news of Jesus that is reliable, on which we can place our trust and our hope. As Peter says, we do well to be attentive to it, “as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.