Transfiguration

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
(Matthew 17:1-9)

Scripture Study

17:1–8 Jesus’ Transfiguration confirms his divine Sonship (3:17; 16:16). It also strengthens three early Church leaders (Peter, James, and John) after Jesus’ first Passion prediction (16:21). Being transfigured before them (17:2), Jesus unveils his glory, later manifest in his Resurrection and shared by his angels (28:2–3) and Virgin Mother in heaven (Rev 12:1) (CCC 555–56). ● The OT background for this event is God’s self-revelation to Moses on Mt. Sinai. (1) Both take place on the seventh day (17:1; Ex 24:16); (2) both occur on a mountain (17:1; Ex 24:13, 15); (3) both Jesus and Moses take three companions with them (17:1; Ex 24:1); (4) the faces of both Jesus and Moses shine with God’s glory (17:2; Ex 34:29); (5) both involve the glory-cloud of God’s Presence; (6) and both events involve God speaking through a heavenly voice (17:5; Ex 24:16).

17:3 Moses and Elijah: Represent the testimony of the Law and the Prophets, respectively (cf. 5:17; 7:12). They are the only OT figures to hear God’s voice atop Mt. Sinai, also called Horeb (Ex 24:18; 1 Kings 19:8–18). They here witness to the surpassing glory of Jesus as the lawgiver and prophet of the New Covenant (cf. Jn 5:39; Rev 11:3–6).

17:4 I will make three booths: Peter desires to prolong the heavenly experience. The booths are small, tentlike shelters erected yearly at the Jewish Feast of Booths (Lev 23:39–43). This liturgical feast became an early Church symbol of the ongoing joys of heaven (cf. Rev 7:9–10).

17:5 beloved Son … listen to him: A similar proclamation was made at Jesus’ baptism (3:17; cf. Is 42:1). ● The final statement, “listen to him”, evokes Deut 18:15. In context, God promised that a prophet like Moses (Messiah) would come to Israel to be heeded by his people (cf. Acts 3:20–22).

17:6 fell on their faces: The posture of those overwhelmed by God’s glory (Gen 17:3; Ezek 1:28; Rev 1:17).

Scripture Reflection

The transfiguration scene serves as “a twin of sorts” to the execution narrative. In the one, a private epiphany, an exalted Jesus, with garments glistening, stands on a high mountain and is flanked by two religious giants from the past. All is light.

In the other, a public spectacle, a humiliated Jesus, whose clothes have been torn from him and divided, is lifted upon a cross and flanked by two common, convicted criminals. All is darkness.

We have here a pictorial antithetical parallelism, a diptych in which the two plates have similar lines but different colors. The parallel scenes highlight the horror of Good Friday and the splendor of Jesus’ love for us. It is no ordinary man that will be crucified on Calvary, but the beloved Son of God revealed in glory at the transfiguration. This same glorified Son will freely submit himself to utter humiliation in order to redeem the human family.

– Davies and Allison

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV

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