Homily for the Feast of the Transfiguration (Year A)
August 6, 2017
Sacred Heart, East Grand Forks – 8:00 AM; 10:00 AM
Focus: A converted life is a transfigured life.
Function: Live a transfigured life.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration. There are many things that I could say about this feast.
I could talk about how this feast was celebrated as early as the 5th century by East Syrians.
I could speak of how it began to be celebrated by the entire Church when it was inserted into the general calendar in 1457 by Pope Callistus III.
I could reflect on how this this feast occurs 40 days before the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. I could point out that the gospel we hear proclaimed today is also proclaimed during the second Sunday of Lent, perhaps hearkening back to an ancient tradition which held that the Transfiguration took place 40 days before Good Friday.
I could preach about how Moses represents the law and Elijah represents the prophets, and so today’s conversation on the mountaintop shows us how Jesus fulfills both the law and the prophets and ushers in the new Covenant.
I could talk about any of those things.
But I think that today’s feast invites us to consider something deeper.
Today’s feast invites us to remember who Jesus is.
It invites us to remember the destiny to which we are called.
It reminds us to remember who we are, even now.
Peter, James, and John have been with Jesus for quite awhile by the time they go up the mountain with him today. They have been with him for 16 chapters in Matthew’s Gospel.
They have heard his famous sermon on the Mount. They have heard him teach the crowds about the Beatitudes, about anger, retaliation and love for one’s enemies. They have heard his teachings on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; on storing up treasures in Heaven, and on God’s knowledge of how many hairs are on our heads. They have heard his invitation to ask, to seek, and to knock. They have heard his warnings on striving to enter through the narrow gate.
They’ve heard a lot.
They’ve also seen a lot.
They’ve seen him cleanse a leper.
They’ve seen him heal a centurion’s servant and even Peter’s own mother-in-law.
They watched him calm a storm at sea.
They’ve seen him cast out demons with the command of his word.
They’ve seen him heal a paralytic, two blind men, and a man with a withered hand.
They’ve even seen him raise a girl from the dead.
Peter, James, and John have every reason to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. But today, Jesus goes even further to strengthen their faith that he is who he says he is.
Today, he reveals his glory in a new way.
Today, he is transfigured before them.
His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light…and 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.”
In all of his teachings and in all of his healings, Jesus looked like an ordinary man. Today, we see him for who he is. We see him in his divinity. We see him as God. And, with the three apostles, we stand in wonder and awe of what we see.
And we stand in wonder and awe of the destiny to which we are called, because he invites us to share in his glory. He invites us to share in his divinity.
The Church Fathers had a saying: God became man so that man might become God.
This is our great calling, and today’s feast draws this out.
Christianity is not primarily about becoming good and kind people. It is not primarily about a moral way of living, although all of that flows from Christianity. Christianity is primarily about God becoming man so that man might become God.
Through Jesus Christ, God invites us into a deep and personal relationship with him, so that we might share in his divinity.
This is the great mystery we contemplate today.
This is what today’s feast is about.
Jesus Christ is transfigured before us to remind us that we ourselves are destined to be transfigured.
When Christ comes again, our bodies will be raised with his and glorified with his if we remain united with him.
Brothers and sisters, stand in awe of the Transfiguration today and see the great destiny to which you are called. You are sons and daughters of God, invited to share in his divinity. You are children of light in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, who shine like the stars of the sky.
Like those first disciples, experience for yourselves the transfiguration of Christ and let your minds and hearts be converted. See the Lord transfigured in his glory, and your life will be transfigured too. How could it not be? A converted life is a transfigured life – your life will be transfigured because you have seen his glory for yourself.
What does a transfigured life look like?
It looks like the college student at the party who doesn’t play the drinking games, not because she is a prude or because it’s against the rules, but because she sees beyond the glory of the night into the glory of eternity. She lives a transfigured life and that life shines as a bright light to all of those around her.
It looks like husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, families who pray together, who sacrifice time in their busy schedules to be together because they know they are made not for the fleeting glory of sports, wealth, or a career but for the glory of eternity.
It looks like the person who prays, who seeks God’s mercy in the confessional on a regular basis, who worships and receives the Transfigured Lord in the Eucharist each Sunday, and all of this with joy because they know that God is giving them the grace to live more and more like his son or daughter.
It looks like parents who bring their children to the waters of baptism, not because it is a rite of passage or a nice ceremony but because they desire their children to be transfigured into sons and daughters of light who will share in the joy of eternity.
Brothers and sisters, behold the glory to which you are called. See the glory of Christ and live a transfigured life even now. You are made for eternity. You are made for greatness. You are made to be saints. You are called to live not an ordinary life but an extraordinary life, a transfigured life.
Contemplate the glory of the Transfiguration and see the glory to which you are called, even now.