Transfiguration Of The Lord
18th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Cycle A | 6 August 2017
Dan. 7: 9-14
II Pet. 1: 16-19
Mt. 17: 1-9
INTRODUCTION: Our Feast today, the Transfiguration, points to what really is the purpose of religion?
(1) Fr. Godfrey Dickman was an American monk of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota; a leader of the Liturgical Movement in the 20th c. and a player during Vatican II, instrumental in helping write some parts of the Council Document specially on the Liturgy: Christus Dominus. Godfried was asked once when he was 92: “If you were young again, what would you fight for in the Church?” His prompt answer was “deification!” The Church Fathers, especially of the East, of whom Dickman was an expert, took it as axiomatic that Christian Life is something far more than moral rectitude; more than just being ethically upright or moral person which they all called theosis or deification. Deus fit homo ut homo fieret Deus! God became human so that the human might become citizen or denizen of heaven. Modern men have lost sight of this! What gave the first Christians this insight? It is the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The great anticipation of the Resurrection is the Transfiguration which is our Feast today. The Resurrection gives men the deifying effect of the Transfiguration.
(2) The Transfiguration Account: This ordinary man from Nazareth went up the mountain along with three of his beloved disciples. “There he was transfigured (metamorphosein) before them.” (v.2) The first we notice is that Jesus’ appearance became more beautiful “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” (v.3) One of the features of beauty, according to St. Thomas, is radiance (claritas). This body of ours, whose beauty lasts only for a fleeting moment, is for a time deified, elevated, enhanced in his being in the heavenly realm. Second, in his transfigured state, Jesus transcends space and time. Why? We see him talking with Moses and Elijah, figures from the distant past. In this world, we are caught in one moment of space and time but in heaven, we will live in the eternal now of God’s life outside, transcending, the two dimensions of time and space.
(3) Observation: Even if we savor this life and appreciate all that it offers, we never feel entirely at home. There is a feeling of restlessness in life that comes not when we are down and out but at our best points in life. There is that nagging sense of there must be something more. Teresa of Avila said this life is like a bad night in a bad hotel. The hotel is not your home. You are just passing by on a journey. This is not what we are meant to be. A higher and more beautiful life awaits us. This is not dualism but a sense of longing. There is a new Kantism where everything in the world is reduced to ethics. Contemporary culture attempts to do just this! But Jesus’ Transfiguration tells us against that trend. The final purpose of our religious devotion is not that we become just nice people with hearts of gold but rather we become transfigured as sons and daughters of God. In fact, everything in the Church from prayers to works and the sacraments is meant to foster our transfiguration.
CONCLUSION: At the end of the day, Godfrey Dickman is right! What Transfiguration boils down to is “deification.”
Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches