|The Transfiguration of our Lord|
A blessed feast of the Transfiguration to you! Today we commemorate the day in which Jesus and Peter and James and John went up on a mountain and there they glimpsed Jesus’ true nature. They saw that Jesus’ appearance had been altered.
They’d seen him do great things, but until now, Jesus probably looked pretty much like just about every other 1st century middle-eastern Jewish man. But this time, he looked… different.
When they saw him this time, though, there was more there. He was talking, with Moses and Elijah. Talking about exodus, about departure.
But not only were Moses and Elijah there, his clothes had changed. He looked the same way the scriptures described Moses as looking when he came down off of the mountain. He looked radiant, full of glory, as of the father’s only son.
And then there was the voice. That voice had been heard before, but not by Peter and John. It had been heard at Jesus’ Baptism. “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Standing there with the radiant Christ, John and James and Peter heard the holy theophany, the very voice of God, telling them, actually the voice of God, telling them, that the rabbi they have been following is not just a rabbi, not just a prophet, but the Son of the Divinity that set all things into being.
Today is an important day because it is a day where we get a special glimpse of just how different this Jesus is. Because, and I don’t want to sound too heretical, but it’s important because if we put ourselves in the disciples place, they don’t know what he is yet yet. We have the benefit of hindsight, we have the benefit of knowing how the story ends. We know, like Desmond Tutu says, that we shouldn’t get discouraged. We’ve read the end of the book. We win! We know this.
But Peter and Andrew, and John, and Thomas, and James, and the other seven apostles, don’t know this. They've been following this guy. And they know he’s different.
But healing someone doesn't make you the messiah. Curing the lame doesn't make you the messiah. Telling people you can forgive their sins doesn't make you the messiah.
And come to that, being the messiah doesn't necessarily make you the son of God. These guys know that Jesus is special. He’s different. They’re sure he’s a prophet. They know that he has something to teach about God, and Peter’s already convinced that he’s the Messiah. But even so, this prophet of theirs is headed to Jerusalem. And they know what happens in Jerusalem as well as anyone else. It ain’t good. Not for the followers, and definitely not for the prophets.
But this experience throws a bit of a wrench into the works. They’d signed up to follow a prophet, but now they see Jesus in a new light. A radiant light. And he’s standing there, full of glory, the glory as of a father’s only son. And this holy theophany rocks them to the core of their being… “This is my son.”
And there standing before them is the son of God. God physically present among them.
Just like it’s hard for us to sometimes remember how differently things looked to the disciples, because like Bishop Tutu says, we know how it ends, it’s hard for us sometimes to remember just how incredible this transfiguration is.
We know that Jesus is the son of God, that Jesus is God, but while we perhaps shouldn't be surprised, we should be every bit as overawed as Peter by this fact. And we should be this overawed every time we come before the altar to celebrate the last supper, because a transfiguration every bit as miraculous occur at the mass.
On the mountain, it was revealed to Peter and John that the son of God was physically standing before them. And even more incredibly, we get to experience the same thing! We don’t get to hear the holy theophany each week, or to see Moses and Elijah discussing exodus with Jesus, but Jesus will be every single bit as present in the host at the Eucharist as he was on that mountain.
I think it’s easy for us to think of Eucharist as our shared meal. And it is. It certainly is that. But it is also so much more. It is through the Eucharist that we commune not only with each other, but with God in Christ. It is through the Eucharist that Christ is made physically present to the community, that God’s faithfulness is demonstrated. It is through the Eucharist that we join Peter and John on that mountainside, overcome by the voice ringing out almost beyond comprehension, stunned that the man we are following is so much more than we thought he was. It is through the Eucharist that the veil between heaven and earth is torn, when “This is my Body” and “This is my blood” don’t just bring Christ to us, they elevate us to the heavenly realm where we stand amid the crowned martyrs and the choirs of angels and the crystal sea and the elders before the throne, just as present with Christ as Peter and John.
So today, on this Feast of the Transfiguration, take a moment to marvel at the presence of the glorified Christ with us in this room. Let the veil tear, let the verity unseen radiate throughout your being, recognize the wonder of standing in the sanctuary in the very presence of God.
Then, come, take, and eat, and drink, and allow the glory of Christ to shine in you, that together we may become the glorified body of the risen lord right here on earth.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen