It may come as a surprise to many that the eighteenth Sunday of the present Yearly Cycle is dedicated to that most celebrated event known as the “Transfiguration of Jesus”, which is described by Evangelists SS Matthew, Mark and Luke, and referred to warmly by St Peter in his Second Epistle. It is a fixed feast, that is to say, an annual celebration that is held on the same calendar date every year, 6 August, whose historical explanation is sometimes lost on us.[1] It is thus one those feasts in Ordinary Time that takes precedence over the Sunday liturgy. The momentous episode is also remembered some time in Lent. It contrasts so strikingly with that sombre liturgical season that it gives us a WOW experience, as I distinctly remember having had when I first heard the respective Reading as a child.

The Transfiguration refers to the moment when Jesus became radiant in glory on what is traditionally believed to have been Mount Tabor. The incident prefigured in the Book of Daniel, an excerpt of which makes up today’s First Reading (7: 9-10, 13-14). The Prophet saw “one like a son of man coming, and he came to the Ancient of Days [Eternal God] and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

Who could fail to see here a foreshadowing of Our Lord Jesus Christ? According to the Gospel of St Matthew (17: 1-9), Jesus’ face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. There appeared two Old Testament figures, Moses and Elijah, with whom Jesus conversed very freely. All of this the apostles Peter, James and John were privileged to witness, thanks to a special bond they enjoyed with their Master. To them alone was revealed here the mystery of Jesus’ fully human and fully divine nature.

On the other hand, the fully human nature of the apostles let them see but not fully realise the depth of this mystery. They seemed eminently qualified to go out and sing of the Lord’s wonders from the rooftops, but alas, Peter made an infantile suggestion instead: “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.” Isn’t this how we too react to supernatural events: by reducing them to mundane standards?

Of course, none of what Peter had envisaged actually happened. Rather, a bright cloud covered them, and that rare voice of the Father in Heaven endorsed Jesus’ identity as God’s Son, just as He had done at His Baptism in the Jordan. Jesus instructed them not to tell anyone about the mountain experience until He rose from the dead. Meanwhile, the experience must have strengthened the faith of the apostolic trio. Not only did they become excellent witnesses to the Faith; Peter and James became martyrs, and John, the only apostle to die a natural death, went on to write the Book of Revelation.

The Transfiguration is easily a highpoint in the Christian journey of faith. It is a revelation of time past, present and future. Here, Moses represented the Law that had been given to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai, while Elijah symbolised the great prophetic tradition. To Jesus’ contemporaries, there ought to have been no doubt that His earthly ministry was intimately connected to His glorious divine origin. Finally, all of what had happened pointed to a future that we as believers eagerly look forward to.

Nothing better than the convincing voice of St Peter (2 Pet 1: 16-19) that sets all doubts at rest. The eyewitness that he was says: “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” He calls upon all generations to pay attention to “the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

However, do we ever think of it all? Our days stretch out in an endless vista as we go about our petty tasks hardly aware of our listless attitude toward supernatural life. Are we wowed by the remarkable foreshadowing of the Beatific Vision? In the light of what has transpired in our State of late, ironically on Pastor’s Day, there is much to be concerned about our individual and communitarian living. Let us ardently pray that our Pastors shepherd their flocks wisely, and not stray into unknown pastures; that they who are moulded unto the heart of Christ set their hearts on heavenly things and are wary of the ways of the world; that, rightly priding themselves on being the Alter Christus, they may feed the flock with the Living Bread, putting the spotlight on God’s Word rather than on their own.

Finally, let us pray for a Transfigured world: that you and I may come to know intimately the True God who never fails to wow us.


[1] On the history of its institution, see