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The Transfiguration of the Lord – Year A – August 6th
Readings: Dan 7:9-10, 13-14; 2 Pet 1:16-19; Mt 17:1-9.
1/ Reading I: Daniel 7:9-14 9 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. 10 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. 13 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, 14 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.
2/ Reading II: NAB 2 Peter 1:16 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. 17 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.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 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.
3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. 9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of man is raised from the dead.”
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/ Why did Jesus reveal his glory for his three disciples? To understand the reason, we need to understand this passage in its content and historical background.
(1) After six days: This Transfiguration happens after six days Peter proclaimed Christ’s divinity at Carsarea Philippi and prevented him not to go to Jerusalem.
(2) Jesus’ coming Passion and Resurrection: There are important points which Christ wanted for his disciples to understand firmly. First, they must clearly understand who he is. This was solved when Peter, as the disciples’ representative, proclaimed, “You are Christ, the son of the living God.” Secondly, the way he redeems people is through his Passion, Death and Resurrection. His disciples didn’t firmly understand this point; that is why Peter prevented him to go to Jerusalem. As all the contemporary Jews, the disciples believed in a powerful Messiah who shall use his power to conquer foreign powers and to govern all nations; they couldn’t accept a Suffering Messiah who must suffer and die on the cross to save people. Therefore, Jesus wanted to bring along his three disciples to the mountain, so that they witness his relationship with the Father, his coming Passion which he must go through according is in God’s plan, and his glorious Resurrection after that.
(3) The Moses and Elijah’s presences: Moses is the representative of the Law because God gave the Ten Commandments and many decrees through him. He is considered the foundation of the Law and today event shows that the Law must be oriented to Christ for completion and perfection. Elijah is the representative of all the prophets. He is considered the most important prophet because of his preaching and power to perform miracles, today event also shows all the Prophetic Books must be oriented to Christ to find the fulfillment of all the prophecies concerning the Messiah.
(4) The content of their conversation: Based on the apostles’ question below, we can confirm that the content of Christ, Moses and Elijah’s conversation is about his Passion, Death and Resurrection. Luke’s report clearly said the theme of the conversation is what going to happen in Jerusalem (Lk 9:30-31). Therefore, both the Law and the Prophets are witnessed for and found their fulfillment in Christ, especially in his coming Passion and Death.
3.2/ The Father’s command: This is the second time the Father witnessed for Christ, His Beloved Son. The first time happened when Christ was baptized by John Baptist in the Jordan River. “To listen to him” is the most important command for Christ’s disciple. To the disciples, God wants them to listen to what Christ was revealing for them although these things aren’t what they want about the Messiah, but in God’s plan of salvation.
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.