Our Transfiguration

“Lord, it is good that we are here” (Matt 17:3).
 
Our hope for the personal and collective transformation that defies death is focused on Jesus. What happened to him is the promise we believe will also happen for us. Death will occur, even as it did for Jesus, but it will not claim us or separate us from the love of God. The question is how this will happen.
 
Today’s commemoration of the Transfiguration is a glimpse into the process that is the central theme of the New Testament and the heart of Christian formation.
 
Three events in the life of Jesus reveal the process of Christian growth St. Paul first articulated in his letters decades before the Gospels were compiled. He called it the “Paschal Mystery.”  Paul writes that our life in Christ begins with baptism. Jesus’ own baptism in the Jordan is the first theophany, or manifestation, of who he is. As he emerges from the water -- a reenactment of the Exodus crossing from slavery to freedom -- the sky opens and a heavenly voice declares, “This is my beloved Son.”
 
The second event is the Transfiguration, which mirrors the baptism theophany and also tells us what the beloved Son will accomplish by his death in Jerusalem. The presence of Moses and Elijah with Jesus indicates that he will fulfill the Law and the prophets by his passion and death in Jerusalem at Passover. He will lead the way for all of God’s people from the failed first creation to the new Creation, restoring to it the image and likeness of God obscured and frustrated by sin.
 
The third event, which accomplishes the first two, is the crucifixion. Jesus’ death, especially in John’s Gospel, is presented as a richly layered theology of what actually happens as the Son of Man is “lifted up” on the cross. Jesus fulfills the promise of salvation by surrendering himself completely to a sacrificial death that reveals simultaneously his resurrection, his ascension and his breathing forth of the Spirit at Pentecost. In this ultimate theophany, Jesus is revealed as the first born from the dead, the new Adam and the pioneer of our salvation. The church is born from his side in water and blood, signs of baptism and Eucharist as the means of our transformation. 
 
Jesus is our Exodus, our Passover, our human brother going on ahead of us from the old covenant to the new covenant. The command to “listen” to him means to follow him.  Here is the essence of Christian discipleship. We are to listen to his voice, to see our human journey in the light of what Jesus revealed as the purpose of life — to join with him in reclaiming the world for God.
 
This majestic vision can seem overwhelming to us as ordinary believers, but it is the heart of the liturgy we celebrate every Sunday and the purpose of all Christian formation. The Good News is that we have full access to this process of development as ordinary human beings because Jesus is one of us. His human journey is the key to our human journey. His life for others is the pattern of our call to use our gifts to serve others. His full encounter with every form of human suffering, temptation and struggle is our assurance that we can face and overcome the same challenges with his help.
 
Intimately united with Jesus, our faces shine with the divine image and likeness that Jesus restored to humanity and to creation by his Paschal Mystery. This is now the mystery of our passage from death to life in him. From the waters of baptism to the mountains of transfiguration and the inevitable crosses of life, we, too, will hear God’s voice saying that we are beloved children and bound for glory.