How many times have we or others said, perhaps in prayer or through a song, “Lord, I want to see your face?” This is exactly what Jesus allows St Peter, St James, and St John to do in this Sunday’s Gospel. St Paul says that Jesus is the image/face of God in 2 Corinthians 4:4 and, in this Sunday’s Gospel, His glorious face is revealed to a few!
This event changed the lives of these men. St Peter and St James even wrote about it in their biblical books. In 2 Peter 1:17-18 St Peter writes, “For when He received honour and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain.” And in John 1:14, St John writes, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father” (emphasis mine).
On the Mount of Transfiguration (traditionally held to be Mount Tabor), Jesus appeared in His glory in between Moses and Elijah. Moses, of course, appears as representative of the Mosaic Law and Elijah appears as representative of the prophets. Jesus shining in between them is representative of fulfilling both the law and the prophets — He is the culmination of both. Recall what He Himself says in Matthew 5:17; “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them” (emphasis mine).
Another reason for the Transfiguration and the revealing of His glory to three of His Apostles, is that He was trying to give them a “down-payment” of faith before being crucified and seeming like He was a terrible failure (this is what God’s been doing all throughout salvation history). It’s not that Jesus was worried of being thought a failure, but rather that He wanted for His Apostles what God has always wanted since the Garden of Eden: A faith stronger than death. The Transfiguration is a parallel of the crucifixion. Jesus was trying to show this to them as if to say, regarding the crucifixion, “Yes. This is the plan. I know it looks bad. But I will come again in glory as I showed at the Transfiguration!” Consider the image below to know what I mean. This is something I put together during my time at university.
A faith stronger than death is exactly what God saw that Abram could have and God sought him out to be the father of the line that would bring Israel the messiah, Jesus Christ. We see the beginning of God’s encounter with Abram in our First Reading this Sunday. God reveals Himself to Abram after eyeing him out to be the right guy and seeks to make a covenant with Abram. Of course, Abram doesn’t yet know much about this God and so God had to promise Abram a few things that might make the deal sweeter: “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing. / ‘I will bless those who bless you: / I will curse those who slight you. / All the tribes of the earth / shall bless themselves by you.’ / So Abram went as the Lord told him.” Who wouldn’t, right!
You and I know, however, that that’s not the whole story!