Transfigured and Transformed - The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF
Transfiguration Year C Luke 9.28-36 Ex 34:29-35 Ps 99 2 Cor 3:12-4:2
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Hoy Spirit. Amen.
How do we cope with mystery and evidence of the supernatural? How do we know and learn to recognise the mystery of God’s spirit in our lives? The Feast of the Transfiguration and the sacrament of Baptism which we celebrate today, give us glimpses of the mystery that is God. It is often that glimpses of God are found when prayer is involved. The life of Jesus is a great example of a life of prayer and many of the significant events in the gospel stories take place in the context of prayer. During the Baptism of Jesus which we celebrated 7 weeks ago, on 9 January, Saint Luke tells us in chapter 3, v 21 ”when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased”. As the prayers of Jesus went up to God, there was the visible descending of the Spirit in the form of a dove teaching us of the co-operation between divine and human - the working together through the power of prayer. In the baptism of Jesus all three persons of the Trinity were present. This is the baptism to which we come and which Rocco will receive soon. Rocco’s parents and family members have been praying for Rocco leading to his baptism, we will all pray for him as part of this baptism liturgy. Rocco will be united with Jesus in the waters of baptism, united with his death, resurrection, and his transfiguration. In the same way, the event on the mountain of transfiguration occurs at a time of prayer.
Jesus took three disciples with him Peter, John, and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. Luke tells us in chapter 9 verse 29 “while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. This story is told by Matthew and Mark, but they give no reason for Jesus and the three disciples to go up the mountain. Only Luke provides a reason – Jesus went up the mountain to pray, and in Luke’s account, the immediate response from heaven comes from the deep prayers of Jesus.
The transfiguration of Jesus comes from within. He is transfigured and his garments as a result become radiant. This transfiguration is quite different from the shining face of Moses, who radiated the divine glory that shone upon him (Ex.34.29). The radiance of Jesus’ inner being, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, the overshadowing of the cloud, and the divine voice confirming Jesus’ identity and vocation take place in response to his prayerful communion with God.
The disciples, although tired and weighed down with sleep were clear about what they had seen. A soul searing and unforgettable vision of two of the ancient heavyweights from the Old Testament scriptures speaking with a transfigured Jesus. This vision in essence points to who Jesus really was, not just a great prophet who could work miracles, but God’s own Son. Moses, representing the law, and Elijah representing the prophets appeared with Jesus. Then God’s voice singled out Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah who possessed divine authority. Jesus, the Messiah would fulfil the prophecies of both the Law and the Prophets.
The Transfiguration of Jesus is the miraculous telling of Jesus’ Glory along with the glorified vision of Moses and Elijah and it was witnessed by three chosen disciples. We are told that Moses, Elijah, and Jesus were talking about Jesus’ departure which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem, his upcoming suffering and death, and all of them were appearing as” in glory”. Jesus had only recently spoken to the disciples about his death and suffering and we are left wondering if they understood.
When we experience something special, we want it to last. Peter tries to do just that. Luke’s comment is kind. “He did not know what he said” It took some time and effort for Peter and the others to understand what it meant to be disciples but here we see God accepting them as they are. Not only do they have a special experience not given to others, but they are also given insight into Jesus’ relationship with God. They hear “this is my son, my Chosen, listen to him.” Surely after this they will listen, but does this powerful experience change them? Apparently not just yet. It is one thing to have a powerful spiritual experience, but quite another to be actually changed by it. And to tell others of such experience is fraught with risks. The telling of this story helps us, in that Jesus was clearly identified as God’s Son. The ability to follow Jesus, comes from confidence about who he is. If we believe he is God’s Son, then we will want to do what he says and follow him. The transfiguration of Jesus is a clue for us, that we can be transformed. After Jesus had died and risen, he sent his Holy Spirit to guide us. The Holy Spirit’s work is to teach us how be to transformed, even in this life on earth, and to be the agents for the transformation of others.
As we grow spiritually and recognise the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, so we are to teach the little ones in our care to recognise the Holy Spirit through word and example. Little children learn through the bible stories, they learn to pray and to have God as a friend in prayer. Prayerful adults in their lives help them to be aware of their growing spirituality and the spirit of God within them. The Old Testament scriptures tell us God’s glory is so magnificent, his beauty and majesty are of such brilliance that to behold them is to die. The transfiguration story echoes this. God is a Consuming fire who called the Israelites forth in fire on the mountaintop and led them with fire through the wilderness. In our baptism we symbolically journey from captivity to life. We spiritually die with Christ and rise to freedom. We rise with Christ and are transformed, and we are told to SHINE With unveiled faces we reflect God’s glory.
Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent is next Wednesday. Can we cast aside the ashes of selfishness and be transformed by God’s unconditional love? Can we spend more time in the communion of prayer and be transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives so that we can connect with others and reach out in acts of kindness, charity, justice, and generosity? Can we connect with those we live with, members of our families and friends and inspire transformation of life in them through the love of Jesus Christ shining in us? With unveiled faces can we reflect the Glory of God in the days and weeks to come? Amen.
The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF