The 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time – 6th of August, 2017
Lectionary readings: Dn7:9-10, 13-1, Ps.97, 2Pt 1:16-19, Mt 17:1-9
The unique experience we read of in today’s gospel is one that leaves the characters in a very overwhelming state of mind. Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them to a high mountain and was transfigured before them. (Mt. 17:2) It was a scene in the gospels that was never to be repeated again and it was these three disciples only, who witnessed it. Notice the number of times we are reminded of this – Moses and Elijah appeared to them (17:3), the voice they heard asking was for them to listen to the beloved Son (17:5) and Jesus draws near to them so that they will not be afraid. (17:7) Finally, it is these disciples who are alone with Jesus after this powerful moment. (17:8)
“The account of the transfiguration also shows unique Matthean features, “That Jesus’ face shone like the sun (17:2) echoes the description of Moses in Exodus (34:29) and heightens the parallelism to the great theophany on Sinai.” (Brown 190) What conversation would Jesus have had with Moses and Elijah? Would it have been about his own exodus death in Jerusalem? What the disciples had witnessed was so profound that they could not articulate it. In actual fact, they had been invited to an ‘Epiphany,’ a manifestation of the divine, and understandably they were both moved and frightened.
From the book of Daniel, we read of another manifestation, “of one like a human being, (Son of Man) who is enthroned as High Priest and given everlasting dominion, glory and kingship over all nations.” (Dn 7:14) The term, ’Son of Man’ is used only by Jesus, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Mt.20:28) and “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mk. 2:28) This term is an affirmation of the humanity and servanthood of Jesus.
Why did the disciples need such an experience? The transfiguration we are told occurred six days after they were at Caesarea Philippi where Jesus had invited his disciples to tell him who they thought he was and his explanation that as God’s anointed one, he was to suffer. Jesus now brought his core disciples to a new revelation of him, one that would counterbalance any dread they might have had, given what he had taught them about his fate. In the time they spent with Jesus, the disciples had listened to his teaching and saw his power at work and now with this powerful encounter, they heard the astonishing words, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (17:5)
Years later Peter reminded his audience that truly they had witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus, “For 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…we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Pt 1:16-18)
It was only after the resurrection that the disciples began to put it all together and saw that suffering was the path to glory. Having experienced that rare moment of seeing Jesus transfigured, they received the strength and encouragement they needed for what was to come. They now had the assurance that Jesus truly was sent by the Father and that Jesus was indeed the glorified Son of God. “Both glory and suffering are affirmed by God’s voice that identifies him as Son and Chosen One (Suffering Servant).” (Brown 243)
Jesus’ identity, his passion, death and resurrection are the central theme that flows through the two revelations – that of Caesarea Philippi and on the mountain. With such an enlightening and inspiring encounter, these favored disciples would never entirely lose the experience which changed them.
For Reflection and Discussion:  Are we willing to commit ourselves as readily when Jesus speaks of suffering?  What have you experienced that has left an unforgettable mark on you?
Bibliography: Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament,(Doubleday 1997) W.R.Farmer, The International Biblical Commentary, (Collegeville,1998)
This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by
Rita Kammermayer, nds, BA, B.Ed, Masters of Pastoral Studies, Jerusalem, Israel
Bat Kol alumni 2001
[Copyright © 2017]
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