The transfiguration of Jesus was a radical experience for disciples Peter, James and John as they witnessed the manifestation of Jesus in all his glory. It was an awe-inspiring peek into heaven that holds the same significance for us today. What happened? Why was it important for these three apostles to experience this? How does the transfiguration continue to impact us today?
When Jesus led his closest companions up the mountain, it signified that something important was going to happen–an epiphany, a sudden manifestation–that allowed Peter, James and John to glimpse the deep reality that Jesus is both human and divine. They wanted to stay there. They were in awe as they heard the voice of God say, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” And then they had to return to work and ponder those words.
The transfiguration is a moment when heaven and earth meet and the glory of the Lord is experienced as his clothes become dazzling, blindingly white. It’s a meeting of the Old and New Testaments signified by the presence of Moses (the law) and Elijah (the prophets) conversing with Jesus. It exposes the full divinity of Jesus, and the fulfillment of the law and the prophets in him. Yet when the apostles looked up, “They no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.” Jesus knew that he was about to suffer and die, so their experience of his transfiguration was meant to strengthen their faith and bolster them for the upcoming challenges they would endure.
The transfiguration is a sign of God’s plan for each of us: to redeem and glorify us in body and soul. When we participate in the Eucharist, we participate in this heavenly reality even now; heaven and earth meet in the consecration of the Eucharist. All the saints and angels are present: “And so, with the Angels and all the Saints we declare your glory.” (Eucharistic Prayer II) As the host and chalice are elevated, simple bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Divinity meets humanity in the hands of the priest, and we are witnesses to the manifestation of the glory of God in Jesus Christ, albeit invisibly. The Eucharist has the power to transform each of us as we receive Jesus into our bodies. From Mass, we are sent back to work and our everyday lives to let his glory shine to all those we meet, “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)
I remember walking past multiple Masses being celebrated in different languages in different chapels of the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. It was a wonderful illustration of the fact that Jesus is truly present in every tabernacle in the world, and it is true for every parish throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit. Each of us can experience the manifestation of Jesus in all his glory in the celebration of the Eucharist, transformed in body and soul, so that Jesus can be seen by the witness of our daily lives. Jesus is not confined to one church’s tabernacle but is truly present in each and every one.
Before Jesus suffered his passion and death, Jesus prayed to his Father in heaven: for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you have sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (Jn 17:20-22)
We are called to be one, united by the transforming power of the Eucharist, to be visible witnesses of the glory of God so that each of us can truly say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
As we prepare to come together as Families of Parishes, we have the opportunity to allow the Lord to transfigure us, to change us from within so that we may grow in holiness together as a community of believers and to experience the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Let us open our eyes and hearts to see the presence of Jesus in each person in each of our parishes, and allow him to transform our Families of Parishes so that his glory shines through our humanity.