Sunday, August 6, 2017
1) Opening prayer
Father of everlasting goodness,
our origin and guide,
be close to us
and hear the prayers of all who praise you.
Forgive our sins and restore us to life.
Keep us safe in your love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 17,1-9
Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as dazzling as light. And suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him.
Then Peter spoke to Jesus. 'Lord,' he said, 'it is wonderful for us to be here; if you want me to, I will make three shelters here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.' He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and suddenly from the cloud there came a voice which said, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.'
When they heard this, the disciples fell on their faces, overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them, saying, 'Stand up, do not be afraid.' And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but Jesus. As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, 'Tell no one about this vision until the Son of man has risen from the dead.'
• Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus. The Transfiguration takes place after the first announcement of the Death of Jesus (Mt 16, 21). This announcement disturbs the head of the Disciples, especially Peter (Mt 16, 22-23). They were living among the poor, but the head was lost in the dominating ideology of that time. They were expecting a glorious Messiah. The cross was an impediment to believe in Jesus. The Transfiguration, where Jesus appears glorious on the top of the mountain, was for them a help to overcome the trauma of the Cross and to discover the true Messiah in Jesus. But even with this, many years afterwards, when the Good News was already diffused in Asia Minor and in Greece, the Cross continued to be for the Jews and for the gentiles a great impediment to accept Jesus as Messiah. “The Cross is foolishness and scandal!”, as it was said (1Co 1, 23). One of the greatest efforts of the first Christians was to help people to become aware that the cross was not a scandal, nor foolishness, but rather the most beautiful and strongest expression of the wisdom of God (1Co 1, 22-31). Today’s Gospel contributes to this effort. It shows that Jesus saw realized the prophecy and that the Cross was the way to Glory. There is no other way.
• Matthew 17, 1-3: Jesus changes aspect. Jesus goes up to the top of the mountain. Luke adds that he goes there to pray (Lk 9, 28). There, on the top of the mountain, Jesus appears in the glory, before Peter, James and John. Together with Jesus Moses and Elijah also appear. The high mountain evokes Mount Sinai, where, in the past, God had manifested his will to the people, giving them the Tables of the Law. The white clothes recall Moses who was radiant with light when he was speaking with God on the Mountain and received the Law from God, (Ex 34,29-35). Elijah and Moses, the two maximum authorities of the Old Testament, speak with Jesus. Moses represents the Law, Elijah, the prophecy. Luke tells us that the conversation was on the “Exodus” (the death) of Jesus in Jerusalem (Lk 9, 31). Thus, it is clear that the Old Testament, that is the Law as well as the Prophets, already taught that for the Messiah, the way to Glory had to go through the Cross. There is no other way.
• Matthew 17, 4: It pleases Peter, but he does not understand. It pleases Peter and he wants to stop that pleasant moment on the Mountain. He offers himself to build three tents. Mark says that Peter was afraid, and did not know what he was saying (Mk 9,6), and Luke adds that the Disciples were sleepy (Lk 9,32). They were like we are: it is difficult for them to understand the Cross!
• Matthew 17, 5-8: The voice from Heaven clarifies the facts. When Jesus is enveloped by the glory, there was a voice from Heaven which said: “This is my Son, the Beloved, he enjoys my favour. Listen to Him”. The expression “Beloved son” evokes the person of the Messiah Servant, announced by the Prophet Isaiah (cf. Is 42, 1). The expression “Listen to Him” evokes the prophecy which promised the coming of a new Moses (cf. Dt 18, 15). In Jesus the prophecies of the Old Testament are being fulfilled, the disciples can no longer doubt. Jesus is truly the glorious Messiah and the way to arrive to the glory passes through the cross, according to everything announced in the prophecy of the Messiah Servant (Is 53,3-9). The glory of the Transfiguration proves this. Moses and Elijah confirm it. The Father guarantees it. Jesus accepts it. Before everything which was taking place the Disciples are afraid and fall on their faces. Jesus gets close to them, touches them and says: “Stand up, do not be afraid”. The Disciples raised their eyes and saw only Jesus and nobody else. From now on, Jesus is the only revelation of God for us! Jesus, and he alone, is the key to be able to understand Scripture and Life.
• Matthew 17, 9: To know how to keep silence. Jesus asks the disciples to tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead. Mark says that they did not know what it meant to rise from the dead (Mk 9, 10). In fact, the one who does not join suffering to the resurrection will not understand the significance of the Cross. The Cross of Jesus is the proof that life is stronger than death. The full understanding of the following of Jesus is not obtained by theoretical instruction, but by practical commitment, walking with him along the road of service, of Galilee until Jerusalem. .
4) Personal questions
• Has your faith in Jesus given you some moment of transfiguration and of profound joy? How have these moments of joy given you strength in difficult moments?
• Today, how can you transfigure both your personal and your family life, and the community life of your neighbourhood?
5) Concluding Prayer
The mountains melt like wax,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his saving justice,
all nations see his glory. (Ps 97,5-6)