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The Transfiguration of the Lord – Year B – August 6th
Readings: Dan 7:9-10, 13-14; 2 Pet 1:16-19; Mk 9:2-10.
Reading 1 (Dan 7:9-10, 13-14):
As I watched:
Thrones were set up
and the Ancient One took his throne.
His clothing was bright as snow,
and the hair on his head as white as wool;
his throne was flames of fire,
with wheels of burning fire.
A surging stream of fire
flowed out from where he sat;
Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him,
and myriads upon myriads attended him.
The court was convened and the books were opened.
As the visions during the night continued, I saw:
One like a Son of man coming,
on the clouds of heaven;
When he reached the Ancient One
and was presented before him,
The one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship;
all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed.
Reading 2 (2 Pet 1:16-19):
We did not follow cleverly devised myths
when we made known to you
the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For he received honor and glory from God the Father
when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory,
“This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven
while we were with him on the holy mountain.
Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.
You will do well to be attentive to it,
as to a lamp shining in a dark place,
until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Gospel (Mk 9:2-10):
Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
THEME: The history of salvation witnessed for Christ.
The people’s faith in Christ is based on history, not on myths or imagination. This faith is based on many authorative witnesses of history which people can verify and their intellect can understand them.
The readings of today Transfiguration want to emphasize this historical progress. In the first reading, the prophet Daniel (c. 200 B.C.) was revealed by God through visions the appearance of the Son of Man after the reigns of the four empires: Assyria, Media, Persia and Greek. The Son of Man, though has a man’s appearance but his origin is from heaven. He received his kingship from the Father, shall reign over all nations on earth and his kingdom shall remain for ever. In the Gospel, before Jesus went to Jerusalem to begin his Passion, he had brought his three apostles, Peter, James and John to the mountain to show them his glory and God’s will. They saw Moses and Elijah having a conversation with Jesus about what shall be happened in Jerusalem; especially they heard the Father’s witness for His Son, “This is my beloved son, listen to him.” In the second reading, Peter witnessed for Jesus’ glory and power by reporting his experience of seeing what had happened on the mountain and by illustrating the prophets who witnessed for Christ in the Scripture.
1/ Reading I: The Ancient One gave him dominion, glory, and kingship.
1.1/ Daniel’s vision of the Father, the Ancient One: The prophet reported this vision after his vision of the world’s four wild beasts: “As I watched, thrones were set up and the Ancient One took his throne. His clothing was snow bright, and the hair on his head as white as wool; his throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire. A surging stream of fire flowed out from where he sat; thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him. The court was convened, and the books were opened.”
(1) About the history, most commentaries agreed the four wild beasts represent for the four empires, Assyria, Media, Persia, and Greek, as Daniel explained for king Nabuchanezzar about his dream. “A stone which was hewn from a mountain without a hand being put to it, struck its iron and tile feet, breaking them in pieces” (Dan 2:34) is meant that after the reigns of these four empires is the Son of Man’s reign.
(2) God, the Ancient One, is the One who controls the history of the world. He has power over all kings of the world and people. He let a king have power to establish an empire and He could wipe out that empire to establish a new reign. When He decided, nothing can change His will. The fact that “A stone which was hewn from a mountain without a hand being put to it” shows His power.
1.2/ Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man and his mission from the Ancient One: Daniel reported, “As the visions during the night continued, I saw one like a Son of Man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him.”
(1) This Son of Man “coming on the clouds of heaven,” is meant that his origin is from heaven, not from the world as the four wild beasts as the beginning of the chapter. As the four wild beasts represented for the four empires of the earth, the Son of Man represents for the kingdom of heaven.
(2) The Son of Man’s mission: “When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, he received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.” The Son of Man shall be the king for all nations, not a single nation shall not be under him. His everlasting dominion and kingdom implied he shall live for ever and no worldly power could overcome his power.
2/ Reading II: These words are as a lamp shining in a dark place.
Peter wanted to show the faithful that what he spoke about Christ aren’t myths or imagination, but are based on the foundation of the two witnesses: his personal experience and the Scripture.
2.1/ Peter’s experience of Christ’s transfiguration: Mark’s passage of the transfiguration below confirmed what Peter said in this passage, “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Peter is one of the three apostles who witnessed Christ’s glorious transfiguration.
Not only saw Christ’s glory, but Peter also heard the Father’s witness for His Son as Peter described, “For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased. We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.” This is a very important witness for the apostles’ faith because it helps them to put their complete trust in Christ as the Son of God, especially in his Passion, Death and glorious Resurrection.
2.2/ Peter’s personal experience is confirmed by prophets’ words: Besides his personal experience, James and John’s witnesses, Peter also had the Scripture’s witness through the prophets’ words. Peter declared: “Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” The first prophet we heard in today reading is the prophet Daniel; besides him, we also have many words from other prophets, such as: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Micah, etc. talked about the Messiah.
Peter paid a special attention to the Scripture’s witness such as: The Pentateuch, the prophets and the Psalms because the Jews believe in these Books’ authority. In his sermon before people (Acts 3:12-26) and the Sandherin (Acts 4:8-21), Peter also paid a special attention to the Scripture’s authority which talked about Christ’s resurrection. If people sincerely study and search the Scripture, they shall be enlightened to understand what are still dark in difficult passages because the whole Scripture was enlightened by the one Holy Spirit.
3/ Gospel: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
3.1/ Christ’s transfiguration on the mountain: St. Mark reported the Transfiguration event as followed: “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.”
(1) Purpose: In order to understand Jesus’ purpose, we need to to understand this passage in its content and historical background.
– After six days: is the time after Peter declared Christ’s divinity at Caesarea Philippi, and the fact that he advised Jesus not to go up to Jerusalem to accept his suffering. This might be the reason why the Church celebrates the Transfiguration on August 6 every year.
– Jesus’ Passion is near. There are two things which Jesus wanted his apostles must be sure: First, they must know his identity. This was partly solved when Peter, represented for all the apostles declared, “You are Christ, the Son of the living God.” Secondly, his way to save people is through his Passion, Death and Resurrection. This point the apostles weren’t sure; that was why Peter took Jesus aside and prevented him. As most of the contemporary Jews, they believed in a powerful Messiah who shall use power to conquer and to govern people; they couldn’t accept a Messiah who must suffer and die on the cross.
Therefore, Jesus wanted to bring his three apostles to the mountain so that they know for sure his relationship with God, the suffering way he is going to pass through according to God’s plan of salvation, and he let them see his glory before they witness his suffering.
(2) The presence of Moses and Elijah: “Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.”
– Moses represents for the law: God gave the Ten Commandments and His decrees through Moses. He is also considered as the foundation of the law, and today event shows the law must orient toward Christ to be perfect and complete.
– Elijah represents for the prophets: He is considered as the most regarded prophet because of his preaching and power to work miracles, and today event shows the Book of the prophets must orient toward Christ in order to find the completion of prophecies about the Messiah.
– What did they converse about? Based on the apostles’ question below, we can know for sure that the topic of their conversation is about Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection. Luke’s account clearly said the topic of their conversation is about his exodus event which is going to happen in Jerusalem (Lk 9:30-31).
Therefore, both the law and the prophet witnessed and found their completion in Christ, especially in his coming Passion, Death and Resurrection.
3.2/ The Father’s witness for His Son: Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
(1) This is the second time which the Father witnessed for Christ, His beloved Son; the first time happened when John Baptist baptized Jesus at Jordan river.
(2) “Listen to him” is the most commandment for Christ’s disciples. To the apostles, God wants them to listen to what Christ is revealing to them, even though it is against their expectation about the Messiah; but it is according to God’s plan. To the faithful, this must be the verse for their life. They must believe and do what Christ teaches them to do because when they do so, they are guaranteed that they are doing according to God’s will, and the results shall certainly be good.
APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Our faith is the results of God’s revelation and the witnesses of many authorative witnesses in history passed to us.
– It isn’t easy for people to accept suffering and the Cross; but to us, those who have faith, suffering and the Cross are God’s plan to save people.