Transfiguration of Jesus Christ
The First Reading, (Gen 12:1-4), narrated the call of Abram, which underscored the importance of faith. Abram who was from the Chaldean city of Ur in the modern-day Iraq was directed by God to set out from his ancestral homeland to an unknown destination. The Lord promised to bless him by making him a great nation and his name would be so “famous that it shall be used as a blessing.” Abram harkened to the voice of the Lord and embarked on the journey to an unknown destination. The letter to the Hebrews stated that, “to have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see…. It was faith that made Abraham obey when God called him to go out to a country which God had promised to give him. He left his own country without knowing where he was going,” (Heb 11:1, 8).
The Gospel, taken from Matthew 9:1-9 continued with the theme of faith. Jesus took Peter, James and John to a high mountain where they could be alone. Luke 9:28 informed us that they went up the mountain to pray. Mountains or hills have been places of prayer in the Old Testament. When the people of Israel left Egypt after their enslavement, it was at Mount Sinai that they experience theophany and God made a covenant with them to make them his chosen people, a royal priesthood and a consecrated nation, if they kept His commandments, (Ex 19:3-5).
God also gave them the Ten commandments at Mount Sinai. Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, (1Kg 18:20-40). The temple of the Lord in Jerusalem was built on a mountain, for Isaiah 56:7 stated that, “I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Jesus also gave his sermon in Matthew’s Gospel from the mountain, (Matt 5:1-7:29).
During Jesus’ prayer with his disciples on the Mountain, he allowed his divinity to become manifest. Suddenly, the disciples felt the glory Jesus had with the Father before the foundation of the world, (Jon 17:5). It was an awe-inspiring experience which translated to paradise on earth, which anyone who had had it would not want to let go. The disciples of Jesus did not want to let go. They wanted to build tents so that they could dwell in that experience forever. The psalmist captured this intensity of experience when it stated that, “one thing I ask of the Lord and this I long, to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life…” (Ps 27:4).
Within this theophany, the disciples of Jesus also witnessed the apparition of the two pillars of the Old Testament: Moses and Elijah. Two of the three major parts of the Old Testament were the Law and the Prophets which Moses and Elijah represented respectively. These two icons of the Old Testament appearing in glory and speaking with Jesus was symbolic of a handover ceremony. The Law and the Prophets are being fulfilled in Jesus and he is the one to lead us to the Father, for he is our way, our truth and our life, (Jn 14:6).
The Transfiguration of Jesus which was to prepare his disciples for the scandal of his passion, was also a deep prayer experience for them. At times after saying some prayers, we may wonder what we have been doing because we had not concentrated, our minds had wandered far and near. At other times, we may feel an inner peace that we have communed with God. Prayer should permeate our lives not only when we stop for an intense prayer to God.
Through prayer, we are strengthened to bear hardships when they come our way. For Jesus, to live is to pray; let us pray earnestly during this Lent that we too like Jesus may radiate the glory of God in us. We shall radiate this glory by being agents of peace and reconciliation in our families, communities and the world at large.
This Sunday as a Parish, we are focusing on reconciliation. We recall that Christ died and rose from the dead in order that he may reconcile us to the Father. We believe that in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, and now He has entrusted to us the message that the world is reconciled, (2Cor 5:19). To enable you to live out the reconciliation brought to us by Jesus, I invite you to adopt the prayer of peace of St Francis of Assisi. May what you do or not do, say or not say be driven by this prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp