Day by Day Through Lent: Day Nine

He was transfigured before their eyes ...

A reflection on the Transfiguration of Jesus:

One of the Bible’s names for the God is “El Shaddai” or “God of the Mountains.” And from the very beginning of salvation history, we see that mountains are a special place to communicate with Heaven. Abraham ascends Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22). God reveals his name and to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 3). Moses later receives the Ten Commandments on that very spot (Exodus 31:18). Elijah returns to the same mountain, also known as Horeb, to hear what God’s “still, small voice” has to say (I Kings 19:8).

So it is no surprise that Jesus brings his favored disciples with him up a high mountain to experience a special moment of communion with the Most High. Mount Tabor is the place. Rising from the plain of Jezreel, its summit provides a spectacular view of all of Galilee. But what Jesus intends for Peter, James, and John to see is not the countryside. He wishes to provide them a glimpse of who He really is.

Jesus is a carpenter from Nazareth, true. He must have looked much like any other Jewish craftsman of that time and place. That much could be seen by the naked eye. But this exterior appearance of his ordinary humanity was a veil hiding something more extraordinary–his glorious divinity. So on Tabor, God pulls back the veil. Moses and Elijah appear. These heroes of old had long since passed out of this world and gone to God. So what does it say about Jesus’ identity that they appear on his right and his left? On Tabor, a cloud comes and overshadows Jesus and a Voice from the Cloud proclaims that this man is the beloved Son of God.

What we have here is what is called a “theophany,” a manifestation of God. It is revelation, first of all, of the divinity of Christ. What the creed says about him could be viewed as a commentary on this very episode: “God from God, light from light, true God from true God.” Suddenly, after a brief prostration, they get up and see only Jesus, looking the way he had always looked. The veil was now back in place.

The five senses are wonderful gifts from God. But they are limited nonetheless. Often we make the mistake of thinking that reality is nothing more than what our senses perceive it to be. So God gives us occasional mountaintop experiences, glimpses into realities that our senses can’t normally detect. Jesus is always divine, regardless of his everyday human appearance. Even though it’s much easier to forget such things and live according to what everybody can see, faith is remembering such moments of revelation and building our lives upon them.

Copyright 2017 Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D.

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