TRANSFIGURATION: A FORETASTE OF OUR FINAL DESTINATION.
By coincidence, this period, every secondary school is taking her mock examination in preparation and as a foretaste of the main examinations; WAEC and NECO. It is not unusual that the remembrance of the main examinations fills the students with anxiety and some bits of nervousness: ‘how is it gona be;’ they would question. Like the mock examination, today’s Gospel gives us a foretaste of heaven and its glories. Today’s Gospel also reminds us of the popular story of twins whose author is unknown. “Twins, a sister and brother were in conversation with each other in the womb. The sister said to the brother, ‘I believe that there is life after birth!’ Her brother protested: ‘No, no, take it from me that there isn’t any life outside the womb. It all ends here. This is a dark and hospital place, and we have nothing else to do but to cling on to the cord that feeds us.’ But the girl insisted: ‘There must be something more than this dark place, there must be something else where there is light and freedom to move.’ Still she could not convince her twin brother. After some silence, she said reluctantly: ‘I have something else to say, and I am afraid you won’t believe that either, but I think there is a mother!’ Her little brother now became furious: ‘A mother, a mother, what are you talking about? I have never seen a mother and neither have you. Who put that idea in your head? As I told you, this place is all we have so let’s be content.’ The little sister finally said: ‘Don’t you feel this pressure sometimes? Its really unpleasant and sometimes even painful.’ ‘Yes,’ he answered, ‘what’s special about that?’ ‘Well,’ the sister said, ‘I think this pressure is there to get us ready and push us out to another place, much more beautiful than this, where we will see our mother face to face!” (this story was taken from an unknown author)
I guess the drama between this brother and sister actually summarizes the Gospel message today. For the sister, the womb is a mere foretaste of the glorious world they would enjoy after birth but this was a fairy tell to the brother. On the mountain Peter, James and John saw that there was more to Jesus than met the eye. During the transfiguration they got a glimpse of the future glory of Jesus’ resurrection. In the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John saw that there was more to Jesus than what they could see and hear and touch – they got a glimpse of the future glory of Jesus’ resurrection. They were indeed overcome by their vision/experience in both a frightening and exhilarating manner. Peter immediately desired that such Ecstasy does not end. Thus he volunteered saying; ‘I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’ as a lasting memorial of what has happened thereof forgetting himself in others.
In the vision, the presence of Moses and Elijah attests to Jesus’ complete and total fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, and although the two are already in glory, Jesus is found conversing with them about his forthcoming death. Moses is the one who symbolizes the scriptures and the law of God. Elijah represents all the prophets of old. Thus it became clearer to the disciples of Jesus when he said ‘I have come in fulfillment of the law and prophets/prophecies of old’. Jesus is there showing that he continues what has gone before, but now he sums up all of the past in a perfect divine will.
The Transfiguration of Jesus today brings out to the fore what the church teachers on the blessed trinity though the Evangelist’s attention today was more on the second person of the Trinity; Jesus the son of God. St. Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus read to us today displays his characteristic interest in Jesus as the Son of God, which clearly echoes in the voice from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; Listen to him.” As in the Baptism of our Lord, the Father speaks from heaven addressing Jesus as the son of God who deserves to be listened to and obeyed while the Holy Spirit is evoked in the cloud that overshadowed them.
Quite unknown to the Disciples of Christ was that the glory of Jesus’ transfiguration was preparing them to accept the scandal of the cross. When Jesus and the disciples came down the mountain Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about his transfiguration until after the Son of God must have risen from the dead. Nevertheless, they did not know what he meant. They rather understood this only afterwards (after his resurrection) when looking back to their experience at Transfiguration and the words of Jesus. Hence in life when our cross is heavy or when we are tempted to despair about the meaning of life, let us look beyond the pain of the present moment and remember those times when we got glimpses of God, those times when God sent us his consolations and most importantly that like Christ the temporal pains of life here is an exchange to the glory of eternity. Let us look beyond the pain of life and see the presence of God in our world, and the offer of life that God wants to make to each of us. Let us look beyond the illusion of happiness that this life offers to the real happiness that God offers us. Let us look beyond this world to eternal life with God.
The first reading for today presents the journey of Abram, the patriarch whom God would later name Abraham. God told Abram to leave the land of his kinsfolk at 75 years of age and to proceed to an unknown land; He would bless him and would make of him a great nation. Abraham believed in what God promised him, even in an impossible circumstance. In this way, he was made righteous through his faith in God. Abraham thus is a model believer and a father of us all in faith. It was not an easy journey that Abram went on. He had very many countless challenges as he journeyed. The worst of all was that imagine a man of such age beginning a journey without a destination. He was also stuck with his difficult nephew Lot who was a lot of trouble for him. He also had to escape to Egypt to escape a famine. He had to fight very many territories in order to establish himself. These challenges culminated with the supreme price of sacrificing his only son. In spite of these challenges Abram did not allow his faith to waiver.
Christ today proves that our temporal pains only prepare us for eternal glory. May we not give up when life challenges seem to uproot us because the joy of our final glory is enough to sustain us. Mores so, like Abram who at 75 years undertook a journey to an unknown destination which before us today seems so stupid an act, may we also imitate him in absolute self abasement and abandonment to divine providence in spite of the torturing experiences we may encounter in our faith. The thought of the Lord for us always is for good. Let us give him a chance in our lives to prove himself. Always remember that the journey of faith is a blind journey.