Summary: The Transfiguration is marvellous, but after that you have to get back down the mountain and get on with the job of being one of Jesus’ disciples
Sermon: 2nd in Lent, Year A, 23rd February 2002
Text: Matthew 17:1-9
In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Transfiguration of Our Lord is one of those epiphanous moments – an episode where Jesus Christ is revealed as he truly is – not merely a fairly special man, or a marvellous teacher, or even a thoroughly good bloke, but he is shown to be God himself, revealed to us in all his glory. ‘Transfiguration’ in Greek is ‘Meta-morphos’ – from which we get metamorphosis – a change from one thing to another.
The Transfiguration was a marvellous experience for the closest of Jesus’ disciples, those privileged to see this revelation at first hand; and it was an experience which they wanted to go on forever. This is why Peter makes that rather embarrassing comment about making three tents for Moses, Elijah and Jesus – because if he sets up somewhere for them to stay then by the rules of Middle-Eastern hospitality, they would be required to remain until the host wished them to leave.
Few of us are privileged enough to have such a close, intimate experience of God. Few of us encounter directly the glory and power of God. It may appear like a fairy story, or the sort of marvellous experience that only happens to other people. But the experience of God in these epiphanies need not be so dramatic – God is to be found in the stillness and quietness of your own prayers, in the Stations of the Cross, in the Rosary, in the Benediction. God is to be experienced in the dark as well as the bright mountain top, and that experience of God, with all the comfort, all the reassurance it offers is no less valid.
But what draws me to this episode is not the dramatic. At the end of the great experience, Jesus, Peter, James and John came down from the mountains and returned to the plains and the city. It would seem a little odd at first glance to concentrate on that text, rather than the glories that preceeded it, but this morning, this is what I want to do.
After the glorious vision, their glimpse of heaven, they had to return to their daily lives, however humdrum, however exciting, however ordinary, and they had to get on with the job in hand – being Jesus’s disciples.
The Mass offers us a Transfiguration, a metamorphosis, it offers us the bread and wine changed into the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Mass offers us the mountain-top experience in the beauty of liturgy and the glories of music. The Mass is the meeting point between normal human beings like Peter, James and John, like you and I, and with God Almighty.
And after the Mass… well, you just have to go home and get on with the job in hand – making the Yorkshire Puddings, and being Jesus’ disciples.
The key thing therefore, is not necessarily what happens on the mountain-top, as wonderful as it may be, but what that Transfiguration experience does for us the other 6 days of the week.
The methods through which we get on with the difficult and demanding job of being of one Jesus’ disciples are written out for us in the reading: “Stand up”. “Do not be Afraid”. “This is my Son, Listen to Him.”
We follow a Jesus who is not just for Sunday best, and not restricted to those who think themselves worthy of being a Christian, but we follow a Jesus who came to earth with the sole purpose of saving us all, regardless of how good or bad we think we are.
So, enjoy the experience of the Mass, fill yourself with the experience on the top of the Mountain, and then do like Peter, James and John and go back into the real world and get on with it.
“Stand up.” “Do not be Afraid”. “This is my Son, Listen to Him.” Amen.