What was the Transfiguration?
Divine radiance emanated from Jesus on the top of Mount Thabor one day, when the disciples James, John and Peter took a hike with Jesus. Images of Elijah and Moses appeared in the clouds, on either side of Jesus. The disciples wanted to make tents for all three, until God spoke to them directly: This is my chosen son; listen to him. (Luke 9:34)
At that moment, the disciples – with Peter out in front – “got it” about Jesus as THE messiah. No confusion prevailed after that point, and yet the disciples remained quiet about what they had seen. This was an enormous truth, which was revealed in measured doses.
The radiance, or bright light surrounding and illuminating Jesus, is foreshadowed in experiences Elijah and Moses have in the Old Testament. Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal, and God sends a fire that consumes the false deities. In the light of that fire, the Lord of the Universe reveals a truth that cuts a searing figure in history. Likewise, Moses traveled up a mountain to the Burning Bush, which was alight with flames, yet not consumed. Also, when Moses went atop Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, his face was illuminated – bathed in radiance.
What are we supposed to figure here?
The root word figure has many definitions. We can calculate figures, draw figures, understand through “figuring.” We also “cut a figure,” as the expression goes, in this world. Now, few of us like our earthly figures; and the figures on our monthly budgets can sometime depress us. Figuring out “stuff” in this life presents untold challenges. When we configure something, we put together many variables to pull together a plan or assemble something whole from various parts. But when we transfigure, we pass through reality to something more.
The Transfiguration, with a capital “T,” was about the Divine revelation that divinity lay within Jesus’ humanity. And transfiguration, with a small “t,” guides us in the way we are to live our lives. We must be transformed by the divine, and not conform to this world.
The Holy Father, in a Lenten homily (February 28, 2010), points to the Transfiguration as a clear direction-signal from God: Follow Jesus: He is the only voice to listen to, the only one to follow.
As we follow Jesus more closely, we become one with Him, and we shine His light everywhere we go. Jesus is the one “who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.” (Philippians 3:21)
As we enter into the Transfiguration, may we all conform to His will and be transformed. As we take our measured steps toward holiness, may we share the radiance of our faith with all the world, and glorify God by our presence.