Feast of the Transfiguration
February 25, 2024
Learning from the Mountaintop
Have you had experiences in your life that you consider mountaintop events?
Each year the Church uses one of the accounts of the Transfiguration as the gospel text for the second Sunday of Lent. This week we are invited into the disciples’ mountaintop experience as Jesus becomes radiant in glory.
The Transfiguration of Jesus is based in part on some schools of mysticism that believe that humans and animals can change form. The word for transfiguration (metamorphose) literally means to change form.
Movies like the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter contain contemporary expressions of this understanding. In the Jewish tradition, the righteous will take on a new heavenly form. It is not uncommon to meet people who hope that their heavenly bodies will be significantly different from their earthly ones, as they ask, “Will I be skinny in heaven? Will I be free of disease?”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is transfigured not in the sense of taking on a totally new form, but the way he appears to his disciples is dramatically different. The fact that Peter, James, and John witness this moment makes it a historical event, not one that takes place only in the spiritual world. Nor is it a vision or dream of some experience in the future when the fullness of God’s presence will be revealed.
Jesus is the only one who is changed and enters into a dialogue with Moses and Elijah. The disciples witness and participate in what is taking place: they see the change in Jesus’ appearance, they recognize Elijah and Moses, Peter addresses Jesus, they are overshadowed by the cloud, and they hear the voice from heaven speaking to them. What is taking place occurs so they can experience it and participate in it.
Let’s reflect on the five primary facets of the Transfiguration of Jesus:
- 1. Divine revelation where Jesus’ true nature is revealed to his disciples.
2. Identity confirmation where the disciples’ witnessing of the Transfiguration confirms Jesus’ identity as the Son of God.
3. A glimpse of the Resurrection where we get a foretaste of what the resurrection experience might have resembled in those early days.
4. The call to listen as God says, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased – listen to him.”
5. The mountaintop experience where the disciples’ witness to this extraordinary event solidifies their faith and understanding of Jesus’ divinity, reinforcing their commitment to follow him despite the challenges they would face.
Take a moment to consider the Transfiguration in your own life. Just as the disciples experienced a pivotal moment in their spiritual journey, how are you and your faith affected?