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Thursday 6 August 2020: The Transfiguration of Our Lord

Cloud and Darkness are His Raiment

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 96/7; 2 Peter 1:16-19; Luke 9: 28b-36

 

By Duncan Macpherson

Features Editor, Roman Catholic Permanent Deacon, retired Lecturer in Theology, Saint Mary’s University, Twickenham

 

Context: a Eucharist in a mainly suburban parish; the congregation comprises people of all ages, from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds

Aim: to encourage a greater openness to the teaching of Christ

We all get tired. Sometimes people even go to sleep during the preaching of a homily! Even our religion can sometimes seem routine and boring. Or perhaps there are problems in our lives that tire us, and we grow weary, like the three disciples on the mountain, and we are ‘heavy with sleep.’ Perhaps our problems, or the problems of the world weary us, dishearten us, and make us heavy with the tiredness that comes from being sad.

Peter, James and John had no excuse for being tired or sad. They were witnessing the power of God. They saw the face of Jesus bathed in a glorious light; a sign of the glory to come. They saw him as the Lord, who in the words of the psalm, ‘is king, most high above all the earth.’ The man they had known as a friend and teacher was revealed in the glory that he would have with the Father after his resurrection from the dead. They saw him with Moses and Elijah. Moses had received God’s law and Elijah was God’s great prophet to Israel, and their presence was a sign that it is Jesus who fulfils the Law and the Prophets.

 

SHELTER ON A JOURNEY

Peter’s offer to build three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, points to the practice of building temporary shelters for the Jewish pilgrimage feast of Tents, or Sukkoth, a feast still celebrated by religious Jews today. Sukkoth is an ancient harvest festival which also commemorated the time the Hebrews spent in temporary shelters in the desert on their way to the land promised to Abraham. On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus was on his way to the promised fulfilment of his death and resurrection. Then, as Peter spoke, ‘a cloud came and covered then with its shadow.’

The cloud is a sign of God’s presence that both reveals and hides his glory. In the words of the responsorial psalm, ‘Cloud and darkness are his raiment.’ Unsurprisingly, the disciples are afraid and then they hear the voice that affirms the truth that Peter had realised earlier in the same chapter, that Jesus was indeed the Christ. And the voice proclaims the message from the Father, ‘this is my Son, the Chosen One.’

 

WE WERE WITH HIM ON THE HOLY MOUNTAIN

And this is a message for me. In the Second Letter of Peter, we heard the words, ‘we have seen his majesty for ourselves … we have heard this ourselves, spoken from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain.’ Maybe, just maybe, the author of 2 Peter was there, but I wasn’t. So where, when or how do I see Jesus transfigured?

Traditionally Mount Tabor is the place in the Holy Land where Jesus was transfigured. Pilgrims who have ever visited Mount Tabor will agree that it is a wonderful place—something that could sum up their feelings about the Holy Land as a whole; a place where the Father’s voice could be heard above the clamour of modern conflict, a voice saying, ‘this is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’ That might have been the ‘where’, but what about the ‘when’ and the ‘how’?

 

APPLICATION

Well, I could be missing the message because I am tired or disheartened. But then something may trigger my faith and that is when I experience a sense of wonder, an awareness of God’s presence. It is then that Peter’s words become my own; ‘It is wonderful to be here’ - wonderful to see Christ for what he is. But then I am in the cloud again and, like Peter, James and John, I am afraid. Then I hear the voice saying, ‘This is my Son the Beloved listen to him.’

Listening to the words of God’s beloved Son, means reading and meditating on his sayings as we find them in the Gospels, and then, having heard and meditated on them; we can build our lives on them. This will change our experience of life completely. However tired, dejected, or disillusioned we are, God will show us his power.

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