Sunday, March 8, 2020


Actually the opening three words of today's Gospel are, “After six days, Jesus took Peter, James and John...and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them...” What happened six days ago? Peter had his day in the sun when, illumined by the Father he acknowledges Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Jesus blessed him and told him the Church would be built upon him, that is, upon Rock Bar Jonah. Also, six days ago, Peter and the other apostles had their day in the depths of sadness, as Jesus followed this blessing of Peter with the first prediction of his suffering and death.  Peter, still basking in the all the glory, protests strongly, “You, suffer, die? God forbid!”  As we know, Jesus then calls Peter a satanic tempter who is an obstacle to him and to what God wills.

The three words “After six days” also send us back to the Book of Exodus and the story of Moses wrapped in the cloud of God's glory for six days, before God called to Moses on the seventh day from the midst of the cloud and the consuming fire of his glory. Here Matthew continues his portrait of Jesus as a new and transcendent Moses who has come with a new Torah, a new teaching summed up in the truth of Jesus himself, the truth that is God's love. In the various accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus, Matthew alone among the evangelists describes the face of Jesus as shining in a way reminiscent of the face of Moses whenever he was in intimate converse with God.  Peter, true to form, grasps at this glory radiating from the face and clothes of Jesus and from Moses and Elijah who appear conversing with Jesus. Peter says, for all intents and purposes, “Wow, this is great! Let's camp out here indefinitely! I'll set up some tents.” Peter has found a place so congenial to his ideas of what is good for Jesus and the followers of Jesus - namely, a place of unimaginable glory, a place without fear, without suffering.  Again, the Father speaks to Peter and to all of us, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”  This phrase is also part of the portrait of Jesus as the new Moses; it alludes to the prediction in Deuteronomy 18 that God would raise up a prophet-like-Moses, and “Him shall you hear!” 

Peter, James and John and all of us must indeed hear and listen to him, as John Meier says, “not only when he confirms the joyful revelation of the glorious Messiah and Son of God, but also when he adds the disturbing revelation of the suffering Son of Man.” The disciples fell prostrate in fear when they heard the voice of the Father.  Jesus touches them and tells them, “Do not be afraid.” Certainly, he is not telling them to have no reverential fear of God. Rather, he is telling them not to be crippled by fear from hearing of the cross that Jesus himself and, by implication, all his followers must somehow bear. As St. Paul says in the Second Letter to Timothy we heard proclaimed today, “Beloved: Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” We are enabled to share the hardship for the gospel, the daily cross, because the Holy Spirit of the Lord shares with us the glorious resurrected life of the Lord Jesus. Jesus touches them and tells them,“Arise, do not be afraid!”

The Transfiguration, (in the original Greek metamorphosis) which follows the prediction of the Passion is a revelation of the truth that glory for Jesus and for all of us follows upon or is even simultaneous with the embrace of the suffering.  The further discovery is that the cross itself is a glorious cross.  St. Paul says in Second Corinthians, “all of us, gazing on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (transfigured) into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  Peter learned eventually not to grasp at glory, nor even to grasp at safety.  He learned to receive hold of the cross, the will of God for him, and found at last the true glory that is eternal.

The Eucharist is our food, for this spiritual journey from cross to glory and from glory to cross. It is the source and summit of the Christian life.  To it we come on this Mount Tabor in Spencer, not just to gaze on the Lord's glory, but to receive the glorified body and blood, the Risen Lord whole and entire within our very selves, to be transfigured into the very image of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Then we too must go down the mountain figuratively, actually to glorify the Lord by our lives.                      
Icon written by Brother Terence. Excerpts from today’s homily by Father Luke.