Jesus’ transfiguration not only gave his disciples—and us—an awesome glimpse of his glory; it also gives us a glimpse of the transformation we will experience at the resurrection.
On the last day, we too will be raised from the dead. Like Jesus on Mount Tabor, our bodies will be transfigured and glorified. We will live forever with the Lord in an embrace so close that his divine nature will transform every part of who we are. This, above everything else, is the basis for our hope in Christ. This is the heart of our faith as Christians.
Why is the transfiguration an important event? Because on that day, Peter, James, and John were given a “bird’s eye view” of God’s purposes and plans. There, accompanied by two of the greatest figures from Israel’s history, Moses and Elijah, Jesus was revealed as the fulfillment of all God had done on the earth. Everything pointed to the glory of God that was destined to be shared with his people—with all who placed their faith in Jesus and listened to him (Matthew 17:5).
The three disciples who saw the glorified Lord were given a vision meant to strengthen them for the difficult days ahead when Jesus would be arrested and crucified. With this vision of Jesus as he would be after his resurrection, and with the Father’s voice testifying to his Son, these disciples were able to see how God was thoroughly in control of all that would happen, both to Jesus and to themselves.
The promise of the transfiguration can be ours as well. We have the testimony of those who saw Jesus transformed (2 Peter 1:16), but even more importantly, each of us can experience a taste of the same vision that Peter, James, and John had. In our own prayer, we can fix our eyes on Jesus and know his touch. At Mass, as we kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, our hearts can be filled with the glory of the risen life that is ours in Christ. In your prayer today, ask Jesus to reveal himself more deeply to you. Let his hope banish all of your fears and anxieties.
Some things to ponder:
The transfiguration was definitely a “mountain-top” spiritual experience for the disciples. However, instead of simply standing in awe and wonder, Peter anxiously suggested building three booths. Are you so used to doing that you have trouble just being in the presence of the Lord? In your prayer today, try to rid yourself of thoughts of what you should be doing for God and simply enjoy his presence and peace.
Both before and after the transfiguration, Jesus told the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and die at the hands of the elders, saying, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” (Matthew 17:22-23). The transfiguration helped the disciples to bear the sorrow of the cross because they saw the glory that lay ahead. Whenever you are bearing crosses, pray through the Scripture passages on the transfiguration.
Let Jesus’ transfiguration fill you with a willingness to endure your present difficulties in order to gain the prize that awaits you.
The words coming from the cloud at the transfiguration—“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 17:5)—are the same words spoken by the Father from heaven when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan (Mark 1:11). In both instances, the Father was expressing his pleasure in his Son, who was fulfilling his mission by beginning his earthly ministry and by facing his crucifixion. Ask yourself, “Am I confident in the mission God has for me?” If you are unsure of God’s will for your life, spend extra time in prayer asking that he reveal it to you.
Pray today, telling Jesus how good it is to be with him. Ask that you never lose sight of his glory, no matter how much darkness may press in on you, and that you may live in his presence forever.
This is a selection from A Year of Celebration: Experiencing God through the Feast Days of the Church, ed. Patricia Mitchell (The Word Among Us Press, 2001).