Matthew 17:1-9 - Through the Transfiguration, Jesus reveals both His true identity and our own.
Today being the Feast Day of the Transfiguration of the Lord, it seems appropriate to take a closer look at the passage describing this occurrence. Looking at the events that transpire here reveals a new truth about not only our Lord and who He is, but also about who we are and are striving to be.
Growing up I always heard the word “transfiguration” referenced, but I never really knew much more than I constantly confused it with the word transubstantiation (both are big t words, give me a break). With that being said I think it’s important to first define what this word means, not from the Christian lens, but the human lens.
Transfiguration - a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.
When considering this definition, the word seems to be a little less intimidating. Now, let us compare this definition to the definition we can draw via the context clues that scripture gives us.
"And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light." Mt 17:2
From this scripture we can note that this word holds significant meaning. Here we see that Jesus is fully transformed into His true identity. Peter, James, and John no longer purely see Jesus in his human form, but in his divine form. To emphasize the point that Jesus is both fully man and fully God even further than him transforming into his divine self, the Father says this in response to Jesus’ revealing himself to the three.
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
At this point, a few things are quite obvious. First, that Jesus is who he says he is: The Son of God. Secondly, this revelation must have both strengthened the three's faith, and also transfigured something in them as well. Although the most important and obvious transfiguration that takes place on the mountain is Jesus’, I would argue it is not the only one.
Consider the definition of transfiguration again - to change form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state. Isn’t that the goal when striving toward holiness? That our hearts would be transformed to be more like His? Friends, this is the exact definition of conversion. Here Jesus not only reveals who he is, but who we need to become more like. Jesus’ true glory is revealed, and he gives us the roadmap to true glory in our own lives. It isn’t that promotion. It isn’t that dream boy/girl you want to go out with. It isn’t a perfect report card. No, it is in Him that we find the meaning of true glory. We only find it through developing a relationship with Jesus and allowing him to transfigure our hearts to be more like his. More attentive to His calls, more patient for His commands, more disciplined in His law, and more loving of both our neighbor and Him. The glory and praise we seek on earth is not guaranteed, and oftentimes unattainable. Contrarily, the glory we seek to achieve in the spiritual life is certainly achievable. God is waiting to transform our hearts, all we have to do is chase after Him. We do this the same way that the disciples did, by being attentive in His presence.
So how can we do this today if God isn’t inviting us up the mountain to see with our own two eyes his Transfiguration? Thankfully, he does invite us to witness this moment every Sunday through the moment of transubstantiation at mass. Now I will admit, I know that it is hard to compare what's happening on the altar to what we imagine happened all those years ago on Mount Tabor. It is something I’ve struggled with for most of my life. But in reality, it is the same exact moment. Actually, we should prefer our experience to that of the disciples because we get to witness Christ revealing himself to us through the Eucharist weekly, even daily if we want! This encounter with Christ we receive weekly is as intimate as we can get here on this earth. This is how we are transfigured. Through going back week after week to witness Him transform before our eyes and offer Himself to us. Even when it doesn’t make sense and confuses us, Jesus works with that. He meets us where we are and calls us to conversion. Through going back week after week, He slowly will reveal not only His true identity to us, but also our own.
Question for Reflection
First, ask Christ to reveal His true identity to you. Allow 3-5 minutes of silent contemplation to transpire before moving on.
Secondly, ask Christ to reveal your true identity to you. Again, allow 3-5 minutes of silent contemplation to transpire before moving on.
Lastly, thank God for revealing the truths He did during this time and allow time for Him to speak His will into your life.