Tuesday August 6, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier The Transfiguration of the Lord
Reading I (Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14) Reading II (2 Peter 1:16-19)
Gospel (St. Matthew 17:1-9)
In the second reading today, Saint Peter tells us that it is not by way of cleverly devised myths that they preached the message of Christ, and that they knew His majesty because they were with Him on the holy mountain. It was that experience Saint Peter is pointing to - the experience of the Transfiguration - that changed everything for him. It was in this experience that they recognized His divinity. Even though Peter had acknowledged that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, he did not understand what exactly that meant. Even with what happened with the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, he still did not fully understand it. What did it mean that Jesus would be raised from the dead? What did it mean to say, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased"? But one can understand from what Saint Peter is saying what kind of impact this experience had upon him. More than anything else, Saint Peter points to the Transfiguration as the turning point for himself, and that it was this point that he can look to above all others and say, "We didn't make this up. This is real; this happened. We were there when it happened and it is this that we are preaching to you."
In the early Church, the Transfiguration of the Lord was one of the most important feasts in the entire Church calendar because this demonstrated clearly the divinity of Our Lord. This showed more than anything else in the Scriptures that Jesus Christ is indeed God, not so much because He was transfigured, but because of the glory that shone upon Him and the voice of the Father that was heard proclaiming Jesus to be His Son. We read in the Scriptures, for instance, about when Saint John the Baptist saw the heavens opened, the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and then the voice of the Father was heard. But the disciples did not hear the voice; it was only Saint John the Baptist who heard that voice. This time, the disciples heard it themselves; they knew, and they believed. They did not understand but they believed.
So too for us, even though we do not have the voice of the Father proclaiming Jesus to be His Son (that is, we do not hear it), nonetheless, we have this testimony from Saint Peter. We have his testimony that this is not a myth; this is not something they made up. This is something which changed the life of Saint Peter and of the other disciples, James and John, because they were there. They heard it and they prostrated themselves when they heard the voice of the Lord. Now, based on their testimony - which is not a myth, but rather, is one of absolute truth borne in power and glory and majesty - we too must prostrate ourselves before the majesty of Jesus Christ. In our hearts, we must lay ourselves flat when we recognize that He truly is the Son of God.
He is the One with whom the Father is well pleased and He is giving Himself to us. It is not a matter of going upon a mountain to be able to see the Transfiguration. What we are going to see is something even far greater: We are going to see a piece of bread turned into the Son of God. Not somebody who is in human form, hiding the divinity behind his humanity and, for one instant, the divinity comes forth to be able to shine like the sun coming from His face; but rather, what we see is something even more extraordinary: a piece of bread and a cup of wine being changed into the very humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ, hidden under the forms of bread and wine but no less real than what happened on Mount Tabor. And the voice of the Father is going to speak in the hearts of each one of us: "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him."
And so as we come before Him in prayer, and especially shortly after we receive Him in Holy Communion and He is present there substantially within our hearts and souls in the Blessed Sacrament, it is there that we need to listen attentively to His voice because He speaks not in the glorious, majestic voice of the Father speaking from the cloud, but in that silent whisper that Elijah heard, speaking within our hearts. We need to be attentive to His voice; we need to listen and we need to obey because this is the voice of God. This is the voice of the Son of God speaking to each one of us as He touches us and says, "Do not be afraid." We have nothing to fear because Jesus is with us. There is nothing at all to be afraid of because it is His Will and He is the One who is calling us.
We understand now, at least in principle, what it means for the Son of Man to be raised from the dead. We have heard; we have seen; we have believed. Now, like Peter and the apostles, we need to go out and preach that message; we need to bring that Gospel to others. It is not a myth; it is not something which is cleverly devised; it is the fullness of truth. It is hidden under the forms of bread and wine but it is Jesus Christ, true God and true man, the humanity and the divinity, shining forth within our hearts and speaking that glorious voice to each one of us in that silent whisper, calling us to believe, calling us to the knowledge of the glory of God shining forth in the face of Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.