Seventh Sunday after Epiphany: “Transfiguration Is Profitable”
Exodus 24: 12-18
2 Peter 1: 16-21
Matthew 17: 1-9
We are celebrating Transfiguration Sunday and something happened on the Mount of Transfiguration. From the readings today, the Holy Spirit would like to communicate to us this message: let us behold the transfigured One that we might live transfigured lives. Transfiguration is a change coming from within. St. Paul says to us that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. We are to renew our minds and prove the good will of our Lord.
As we put our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we have been made into new creations in Christ Jesus. God took away the sin nature, the old nature, and the new nature in Christ has been placed within us. St. Paul says that we are a new creation in Christ Jesus. The old things have passed away; old things have become new. This is who we are in the inside, but apparently, the soul is our responsibility in our bodies. It is made up of our will, our emotions, and our minds. What we have to do with our emotion is not to let it rule or control us, but to put it under the rule of Jesus Christ.
If our minds are to be renewed, we are to start thinking the way God thinks. When we grew up, we were products of our environment. Our friends, the people we came in contact with or the trending things shaped up our thinking. Our thinking must be shaped by Christ, and that is our responsibility, thus, we need to renew our minds. With our will, God wants us to align it to His will. Before His death, Jesus prayed where He started perspiring blood, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me. But not My will, but Yours be done.” Something about His human nature was against what was going to happen to Him. He had a glimpse of what was going to happen to Him. He who knew no sin became sin for us. Christ was going to see a separation between Him and His Father that He would cry on the cross, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me.” It was very hard for Him, and His flesh didn’t want to go through that, but He battled so that He might be able to fulfill the will of the Father in His life. He aligned His will with the will of the Father.
I am so glad Christ said, “Not My will, Your will be done,” because if He said otherwise, He would not have gone through the cross, and then, it is us who will go to the cross. It will not be sufficient because we are imperfect. We have sin in our lives. It has to be a perfect sacrifice, and Jesus is the perfect sacrifice. He was the sinless man, born of a virgin, and He was the only One who was qualified to die for the sins of mankind. The first shedding of His blood was not on the cross, but when He prayed at that stone in the garden of Gethsemane, His sweat was of blood.
The Lord tells us that we are to take care of our soul, our mind, and our emotions. We are to take care of our bodies so that we might live transfigured lives. What does it mean to be transfigured? This is allowing what is on the inside to be shown forth on the outside. What God placed in us, the new life in us, is not going to be hidden in us; but the new life that is in us is going to be shown through us. God didn’t just want us to be saved from sin, and hopefully just live enough so that we don’t do something heretical or blasphemous. He wants us to live a good life that when we die, we get to heaven one day. Yes, we will get to heaven, and God will be very glad to see us in heaven, but He would like for us to manifest what a heavenly life while we are still on the earth.
As we look at Jesus, we might say, “That is Jesus and I expect Him to live that kind of life, but He can’t expect me to live that kind of life that He has.” Of course, Christ can expect that from us. He lived a life that Adam should have lived. He lived a life that He would like for us to live. He had all our weaknesses. He had all our limitations. He was not born half-a-man, but a fully man, subject to all the temptations that we are subject to. Jesus showed us how to overcome and conquer them. In the Mount of Transfiguration, we see the glory that is on the inside of Him coming out. He is showing us what we can be. He is showing us what our Father wants us to be. It is not just to live good lives, but to live transfigured lives on the earth today.
Matthew 17:1-4 says, “Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and brought them up to a high mountain by themselves.” And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” God can easily speak to anyone whether we are in a mountain or whether we are in a valley. It is not difficult for God to meet with us wherever we are. God can meet us in the Church or outside. God desires that He always become part of our lives. How much? It is as much as we allow Him to because our God is a God who loves us and gives us free will. He will not violate this. How much we allow Him, He will become a part of us.
In the Old Testament, God asked Moses to come with Him on top of Mt. Sinai so that He would give the Law to him. Mountains give us a clear view of what surrounds us. God wants us to have mountain-top experiences with Him. Things become clearer to us when we begin to see things from God’s point of view.
God created the Jews to become His chosen people. God manifested Himself through the Jews, and from them came Jesus, our Messiah. Right now, there is an order from some of the extreme enemies of Israel to wipe out the latter. Let us say that they are able to launch multiple nuclear rockets and they wipe out all of Israel. Let us say that they send assassins to go around the world and wipe out every Jew there is. Let us say that they succeed in wiping out the Jews. Then, the prophecy of Jesus about them, “You will never call Me again until you say ‘Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord,’ will never come to pass. If this is so, He might not be able to come back again. There is not going to be any final solution. There is going to be an eternal warfare between life and darkness. Of course, the Church will always win, and the enemies are fine with this if this continues. One day, the enemy will be thrown into the lake of fire when Jesus Christ comes back again and there is going to be an end to this conflict. Right now, the conflicts are going on and on, and we can pray and we can believe God, and we can see victory after victory. However, it is tiring and wearisome if the conflicts keep coming. One day, the Lord will come and all of these conflicts will stop, and the enemy doesn’t want this.
With mountain-top experiences, when we see things in God’s point of view, we begin to see clearly. We won’t be confused with what is going on in the world where everyone has his own ideas, agenda, and terms. When we walk with God, when we come to the Eucharist and listen to what God has to say to us, we are learning to walk on top of the mountain even though we are in the valley.
Scriptures says that we have been raised up and seated with Christ in heavenly places. It may seem like we are trapped in our circumstances and looks like we are victims of our circumstances, but according to the Word of the Lord, we are raised up with Jesus. We are seated with Him in heavenly places, and what does this mean? If He rules and we are seated with Him, then, we also rule and reign. The authority that Christ has is the authority that we are walking in. If we walk with Him, then, we would rule and reign and we will be walking on the mountain top.
While Jesus was speaking to His disciples, He was transfigured and the light and the glory that was in Him came out. Do you know that the life that we have today is the same life that He has? He would like that life to come out from us. We are children of God, but God is also looking for us to become sons. Children are only interested in their own concerns, own needs and what they want. Children grow and they become sons and they are no longer just interested in their needs. They are now interested in what the Father is doing and they say, “Dad, You have been meeting my needs. Now, what can I do? I want to work with You, Dad! Abba, Father, I am Your son. Use me for I would like also to meet the needs of others. I want to bring Your presence. I want to bring Your healing. I want to bring Your peace. I want to bring Your mercy wherever I go.”
We want to do what the Father wants. We want to please the Father. This time, we are serving God not according to our terms, but serving Him according to His terms. We are willing to do what is sometimes difficult to do. We are willing to go the way of humility. We are willing to go the way of submission. There may be days we may not feel like serving God, but we don’t insist on what we want. We don’t insist on what our flesh wants to do. Sometimes, we get angry with somebody because we are fed up with them to a point that we want to say words that would scar them for life, but we don’t say it because we got to walk in love. We want to do it the way Jesus wants it. It is never the way of pride. It is never the way of power. It is never who is right or insisting our own way. It is never insisting to serve people whom we think are worthy to be served. If this is how we think, then, who do we think are the people that are worthy to be served? Are we the judge of who is worthy or not or is God the One who chooses and we serve?
If the apostles walked by their own preference, they would not have accepted Paul. He was Saul and he persecuted and killed the Christians. Along the way, the Lord manifested to him, and he submitted to the Lord. He lost his pride and ego. Later on, he was accepted into the council of the apostles. What if the attitude of the apostles was, “Why would we accept him? He was the one who killed our families. I don’t care if God accepted him; I will not.” The moment we do this, we are saying to God, “You are wrong in giving this person grace.” Who is unworthy in our sight that we would rather not serve him? If people do this, they have made themselves a god, and they fall before God. This cannot happen! We cannot insist on serving God on our own terms. If we are going to serve God, we have to serve Him according to His terms. “Not my will, Lord, but Thy will be done in my life.”
Jesus walked the way of humility. He walked the way of the fear of the Lord. We declare from the Psalms that God reigns and if we believe He reigns, then, we will live according to His Word. Jesus said, “Why do you call Me, Lord, Lord, but you do not do the things that I say?” If Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives, then, there is no negotiation about this. If we grew up being taught to give a payback for a wrong doing, and the Lord says, “Forgive,” though how difficult it may be, if He is our Lord, then we will not debate or negotiate about it. We will forgive. If we say that Jesus is our Lord, and He tells us how to do things, then, it is how it should be in our lives. If Jesus is Lord, then, we need to put His Word into action in our lives. Our choices, our values, and our priorities must be based on the principles taught to us by the Holy Scriptures.
Jesus lived a transfigured life. We always see Him in submission to His Father. He says that He doesn’t teach anything except of what the Father has taught Him. He doesn’t speak about things except what He has heard from His Father. He doesn’t do things except what He sees His Father is doing. Jesus is not Someone who would say, “That is My Father, but even though I am His Son, I will establish My own identity. I will prove that I can do it.” Jesus said, “What My Father shows Me, that I will do. What My Father tells Me, that I would say. What My Father communicates to Me, that I will teach to you.”
Jesus never went against His Father, thus, we hear the Father’s voice, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” A beloved son is someone who is concerned more about the will of the father not his own will or agenda.
In the Transfiguration story, Peter, a man of action, always had to do what was needed to do. He said to Jesus, “It is good for us to be here. If You wish, I will make three tabernacles here: one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Peter just wanted to do something. There is a statement: don’t just stand there. Do something! Maybe, Peter would have benefited if somebody said to him, “Don’t just do something. Stand first.” He was in the presence of God, so he needs to listen. The situation would have been profitable to Peter if only He had listened first. Verse 5 says, “While he was still speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”
Peter was not in the same rank as Moses and Elijah. Moses represented the Law; Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law. What the Law requires is fulfilled in Jesus, and we have faith in Him that the benefits of that are given to us. Elijah represented the prophets, and every prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus. Peter was not in the same rank when the Father spoke, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.”
When we listen to God, it is not just through the words that He is saying to us, but it is through the life that He lived and showed us. Sermons are preached by words, but we can tell whether the person believes his sermon by the life he lives. Somebody said, “Preach your sermons. Use words when necessary.” Our lives every day is a sermon of who our God is. What do we believe about our God? It is seen in our lives.
The key principle is to listen to Christ. Whatever happens in the world today, whatever happens in a situation, whatever other people are saying, always listen to the spirit of Christ. There are so many teachers today, but when they speak, do they carry the spirit of Christ? Are we challenged to more faith? Are we challenged to forgiveness? Are we challenged to humility? Are we challenged to rise above where we are? Or when they speak, do they make us angry and defiant? Do they make us do something that will hurt the Body?
Speak with the spirit of Christ. Jesus said that in the last days, there will be those who will be speaking in My Name. But we need to see that if they speak in His Name, it should be according to His Spirit. God will never tell us to judge to say who is worthy or not worthy of His service.
We are children of God. God wants us to become sons. God wants us to live transfigured lives while we are here. God wants to display what heaven is like even before heaven gets here. We are sons of heaven. We are sons of the Father and He wants to display Himself through us.
There will be difficult situations where we may need to make difficult choices – whether to forgive or to hit back; whether to speak kindly or to be sarcastic; whether to humble ourselves or to reassert ourselves. Jesus was born in a stable or technically correct, in a cave. He could have been born in a palace or through a great circumstance. God could have chosen parents of a royal lineage in order to bring forth His Son in the earth, but He chose a humble carpenter and a simple virgin. They were not super rich. Once a upon a time, the Savior of the world was dependent on His creation to perfect Him, to feed Him, to nurture Him, so that one day, He might fulfil the will of God in His life, and in so fulfilling, it opened up the will of God for us all.
Because of His death, Christ opened heaven and its opportunities to us. He lived a transfigured life. As we focus on Him, especially this coming Lent, we will live transfigured lives before Him.