March 5, 2023
This homily will not be given during the Liturgy as this is the opening day of a Lenten Mission at St Sebastian in Ft Lauderdale, FL
Genesis 12, 1-4 + Psalm 33 + 2 Timothy 1, 8-10 + Matthew 17, 1-9
“Six days later” is the way Matthew begins today’s Gospel. So, it is the seventh day – a “replay” of creation and the day of completion. He takes Peter, James, and John up a high mountain. Soon he will climb the mountain of his death alone. The characters, three disciples, experience this moment of glory. They are the same three who will experience the Agony in the Garden. For Jesus this is one more affirmation of what was said about him in the Jordan river. At that time, he was the only one who saw the dove and heard the voice, but not this time. A few verses earlier, Peter answered the question: “Who do you say that I am”? That scene ends with Jesus once more describing his passion, but to lead them through that, they are given a brief glimpse of the future.
The question is still out there for us all. “Who do you say that I am?” Most of us are like those apostles who wanted that glory, power, and all that fame and prestige, but that is not the savior and messiah God has given us. We get the savior and messiah who falls to the ground, who is innocent yet hung on a cross between two thieves. When Jesus tells Peter and the apostles that following him means taking up a cross of self-denial he speaks to us as well.
The God Jesus reveals to us is a God of mercy and compassion, a God who knows suffering and has already shared it with us. This is a God who suffers with us because his only Son has suffered for us. I find it thought provoking that the Greek word Matthew uses for “Transfiguration” comes into English as a metamorphosis, which is what happened when the Greek gods took on human form.
With that in mind, we can sit with this image of the Transfiguration as a hopeful and comforting glimpse of what future is instore for those willing to take up the cross, willing to deny one’s own will in favor of God’s will. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem now in chapter seventeen. It does not take any divine knowledge to know that there is trouble ahead, that his preaching and teaching have threatened the very life and security of those in power from Herod and the Chief Priests to the simplest Scribes and Pharisees. The new creation has on that mountain, and the old world is passing away.
Lest we think that this experience was only something the disciples experienced, we might well wonder about what it meant to Jesus to hear once more the affirmation of his relationship with the Father. There is a dark night of hopelessness lurking around this scene, but the light of God suddenly breaks through that darkness with the promise of victory for those willing to die.