My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, just think how God has cherished each and every one of us here, for:
(He) called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.
Think also how carefully and for how long He has prepared the way for our coming to Christ: how many of God’s servants, the patriarchs and prophets, have served God’s purposes -- at times with their very lives -- for our blessing!
Above all, try to appreciate how incredibly He looks after us in our lives -- short and apparently insignificant though they be -- by the sacrifice of His own Son, Who, as Saint Paul tells us in the second reading:
Has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel!
On earth it all began with ‘our father in faith’, Abraham some 4000 years ago:
Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you.
The development and progress of that blessing promised to Abraham was, however, encumbered and hindered by ever-present sin and selfishness, until it even came to be resisted by the official representatives of the People of God, by traditional Israel and the authorities of the Temple of which God had declared (1 Kings 9:3) to the young King Solomon:
I have heard the prayer of petition which you offered in My presence. I have consecrated this temple which you have built; I confer My name upon it forever, and My eyes and My heart shall be there always.
These authorities, consecrated and learned in the Law, increasingly tried to put their own – discordant – plans and purposes for glory, power, and influence, before the holy will and the great goodness of God, to such an extent that Jesus Himself was able to say of them:
Therefore, the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world. (Luke 11:49-50)
With such a background over the ages the current situation was disturbingly unclear to Jesus’ disciples, and was even, perhaps, becoming somewhat alarming: with ‘official’ or ‘important’ figures never far away, apparently always watching and listening even though they did not always choose to voice their opposition and threat. And quite recently Jesus had spoken openly of His own looming death and had even gone so far as to issue a solemn warning to all who would become His disciples:
Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and that of the gospel will save it.
It was, therefore, disturbing for Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration when, on awakening, they saw Moses, whom Jesus said ‘wrote about Him’ and Elijah, the champion of the Israel’s God and sworn enemy of all false prophets, about to leave Jesus. Peter immediately offered to build three tabernacles hoping that they might remain with Jesus; but, precisely at that moment, the Father gave them the clearest possible admonition and the strongest encouragement to cling supremely and most confidently to Jesus in all His trials:
While (Peter) was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5)
This was a moment of supreme significance for the future Church, defining her essential ‘character’ in relationship with God’s Purpose and People. Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, could give no more help to Jesus; they had prepared the way for His coming, as Jesus (Luke 24:27) was gratefully aware:
Beginning with Moses and all the prophets He interpreted to them all that referred to Him(self) in all the Scriptures;
but now, Jesus alone, and only He, could carry on to its final dénouement and fulfilment, God’s work for the salvation of mankind, of Israel and the Nations, of all Jews, Greeks and Pagans:
This is my Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!
God the Father spoke thus to the three favoured disciples, but through them He addresses all Christians saying, ‘Listen to Him! He has come to do the work for which I sent Him: to complete My plan that you become My children in Him.’
“Listen to Him”: those are very significant words. Some 1300 years before, Moses had spoken in the name of God to the People of Israel saying:
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. (Deuteronomy 18:15)
Moreover, the promised one was not to be just another prophet, even though it be one like the great Moses, because His words would be the very words of God Himself, and those who would refuse to listen to His words would have to answer for that to God Himself:
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put My words in His mouth, and He will tell them everything I command Him. If anyone does not listen to My words that the prophet speaks in My name, I myself will call him to account.” (Deuteronomy. 18:18-19)
When Moses had been speaking with God on Mount Sinai we are told that, unknown to him, his face had become radiant and all, including even his brother Aaron, were afraid to approach him. Here however, when the disciples Peter, James, and John, were with Jesus on the mountain, we read that:
(Jesus) was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. (Matthew 17:2)
But, whereas the Israelites were afraid to approach Moses because his face was shining,
Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
Moreover, we -- the true Israel -- are earnestly exhorted to fix our eyes upon the transfigured and glorified face of Jesus, by St. Paul who tells us:
God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
Jesus was totally transfigured: “was transfigured” is the Hebrew way of saying: “God glorified Him”. The Hebrew tradition did not allow the naming of God and so the words were phrased in the passive voice: “Jesus was transfigured” leaving “by God, by Jahwe” unspoken but understood. In that transfiguration the glory of Jesus’ divinity enveloped His whole -- perfectly human -- body. This should, indeed, have been the normal state of Jesus’ humanity; however, for our sake He set aside this glory and allowed Himself to be seen as an ordinary man, as Paul tells us:
Being in very nature God, (Jesus) did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as (an ordinary) man, He humbled himself (yet further) and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)
Today, however, in our Sunday worship, we are thinking of and wondering at Jesus in glory -- now the true and eternal Jesus; and we are filled with awe and gratitude as we realise that because human flesh does, in Jesus, bear the glory of the omnipotent and all-holy God, sinners such as ourselves can cherish the hope of being filled with the glory that He has promised to share with all who turn from their sins and become His disciples.
Last Sunday we heard of Jesus being taken to the top of a very high mountain and being shown and offered the glory of the whole world if only He would bow down and worship Satan. There Satan promised a false and fleeting glory.
Today, we glimpse something of Jesus in the true and eternal glory of God:
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
There, Jesus went Himself up into the presence of the Father on the mountain: He was not led there, He came, as the beloved Son before His Father, as of right; and notice -- with delight, surely -- that He was leading His disciples into the Father’s presence as He will lead us too at the end of days.
People of God, this vision is a God-given consolation for Christians to the end of time, because the words of Jesus echo down the ages in Mother Church. We can indeed “listen to Him” because He Himself said to His Apostles:
When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” (John 16:13-14)
By the Holy Spirit -- Jesus’ parting Gift to us -- His truth is and always will be known to Mother Church, and that truth is to be made known far and wide to all those wanting and waiting to hear and to obey Jesus’ words of life proclaimed by the teaching of the Apostles throughout the ages:
He who listens to you listens to Me; he who rejects you rejects Me; but he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me. (Luke 10:16)
Those who listen to the Son speaking through His Church in the world of today are being drawn towards that final gathering of God’s chosen People of which we find a prophecy in the second book of Maccabees which says:
When God gathers His people and shows His mercy, then the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses and of Solomon… (2 Maccabees 2:7-8).
That process is ongoing even now among us here today, and we can complete and extend it to its full and proper dimensions, When God gathers His people and shows His mercy, then the glory of the Lord will be seen as shown in the case of Moses and of Solomon, and as seen on the face of Jesus, and heard from the cloud, on the Mount of Transfiguration. For, with the three disciples we too hear the voice of Jesus and we are urged by Mother Church to obey the voice of the Father and “listen to Jesus”. Mother Church in the power of the Spirit given to her by her Lord teaches us how to obey Jesus, and the Spirit Himself will inspire us how to love Him; and Mother Church exhorts us to have total confidence in Him Who alone can, and will, share with us His glory and lead us and all His disciples into the very presence of the heavenly Father, to be welcomed by Him as His children, beloved in the Only Beloved.