The Transfiguration According to St. Luke
Homily for the Feast of the Transfiguration
All three of the synoptic Gospels record the event that we celebrate in today’s feast; namely, the Transfiguration of Jesus before Peter, James, and John. The Gospel stories about this event appear in the lectionary twice in every year. First, we hear of the Transfiguration on the second Sunday of Lent. Then we hear of this event again on August 6. Because we are in the “C” cycle of the lectionary, this year features the story as it was told to us by the evangelist St. Luke. St. Luke’s version of the Transfiguration includes several differences that help us to understand the importance of this event.
The first difference comes in the very first verse of this Gospel passage. St. Luke tells us that Jesus went up the mountain to pray; he tells us that the appearance of Jesus changed while he was at prayer. One of the hallmarks of St. Luke’s Gospel, which is sometimes referred to as the Gospel of prayer, is that he includes this detail in each of the significant events of Jesus’s life. In this way, St. Luke reveals that prayer lies at the heart of his relationship with the Father. The same should be said of us who profess to be followers of Jesus.
All three of the synoptic Gospels tell us that Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus as he is transfigured. These two individuals from the Hebrew Scriptures have both had powerful experiences with God atop a mountain. Moses is allowed to see God as God passes by though he is only allowed to see God after God has passed. Elijah also has an experience atop Mount Horeb when, after earthquake, fire, and a strong wind, he hears God’s voice in a tiny whispering breeze. St. Luke’s also tells us what Moses and Elijah are talking about with Jesus. They spoke to Jesus about his death or exodus which Jesus was about to fulfill in Jerusalem. This is, in fact, something that they have in common with Jesus as they both experienced an exodus of their own.
In all three accounts, this event takes place after Jesus has revealed that he is going to Jerusalem where he will be put to death by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes. Because St. Luke includes the content of their conversation, we clearly come to understand that Jesus’s death will also lead to his resurrection. The Transfiguration reveals the glorified body which will rise from the dead and ascend into heaven.
We are all called to conversion of life. If we enter into this process with a prayerful stance, we will come to the same future that awaits Jesus after his death. As disciples of Jesus, it is important for us to realize that transformation or transfiguration can only happen in our lives if we, like Jesus, make prayer a priority in our lives. Once we have been transformed, we can then go about the process of transforming the world.