Wednesday August 6, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of the Transfiguration
Reading I (Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14) Reading II (2 Peter 1:16-19)
Gospel (St. Mark 9:2-10)
In the second reading today from the Second Letter of Saint Peter, Saint Peter tells the people that it was not by way of cleverly concocted myths that they were made known to the people of God, but rather it was specifically by the power of the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ because, he says, “We were eyewitnesses when He received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came from the majestic glory: This is My Son, My Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” And so when Saint Peter speaks about this, recognizing the honor and the glory that God the Father had given to Jesus, it is in this that Peter recognized initially the fullness of the share in the divinity that Our Lord had. Even though he had proclaimed this truth (as we read in Matthew 16, “You are the Son of God,” and Jesus proclaimed that Peter was blessed because he would not have received this from any man but only by revelation from the Father), still, Peter did not fully understand what it was that he had said.
Even after this particular point of the Transfiguration, we are told that Peter, James, and John did not really understand it. They were discussing with one another what to “rise from the dead” really would mean. What they had just seen was a vision of what it would be like, someone who was completely transfigured, someone similar to the vision that Daniel had when he saw God the Father on His throne with snow-bright clothing and the hair on His head white as wool and flashing fire coming from the throne and so on. Then he saw one like a son of man being presented before our heavenly Father. So all of these things Peter would have had in his mind as he pondered this, unable to speak about it to anyone except James and John because he had been forbidden to do so by Jesus. Yet, knowing these Old Testament prophecies, knowing, for instance, what Ezekiel talked about – having the graves opened and the people rising from them – knowing what people believed regarding the resurrection, that is, the party of the Sadducees and what they believed as opposed to what the Pharisees believed. We see in the New Testament that the Pharisees believed in the resurrection and the angels, the Sadducees did not. Peter would have been aware of why each one believed in what they did. And so as he saw what happened to Jesus, all of this would have been going on in his mind. He saw the fulfillment of the law that Moses had given. He saw the fulfillment of the prophets as Elijah was present. He was able then to understand all that had been said as he prayed about this and as he pondered it to the point that he could say, “It is not by way of cleverly concocted myths but rather by power and by a sharing in the glory and the honor of our heavenly Father.”
So when we think about this Transfiguration that we celebrate today and the fact that in His humanness Jesus allowed the divinity for this one particular moment to shine forth in His humanity as a prefiguration of the resurrection, not only for Himself but for each one of us, it is something that we also share in already because in the Eucharist that is Who we receive – and not only just the Resurrected Christ, but the Glorified Christ. Peter tells us that Jesus received honor and glory from our heavenly Father, and at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, in the Doxology, we say, “Through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are Yours, Almighty Father.” We have that exact same phrase of the glory and honor. So we see that Jesus is giving glory and honor to God, we give glory and honor to God, and God gives the glory and honor to Jesus, and through Jesus to us.
And so we share, in the Eucharist, in the resurrection of Christ from the dead already. In Baptism, Saint Paul tells us that we have already had a share in the death and resurrection of Christ. We live that out every time we receive the Eucharist, and it is the foreshadowing, the promise, of what it is that we are called to when our bodies too will share in that glory and honor, when we too will have the opportunity of rising from the dead. We do not yet understand exactly what that means. What will that look like in each one of us? How is it possible that the body rotting in the grave will be able to rise and be glorious and share in the very glory and honor of God the Father? Yet that is what we will do.
So like Peter, James, and John, we can ponder it. We will not fully understand it until it happens, but it is a truth, a truth that we have entered into in Baptism, a truth we celebrate every time we receive Holy Communion, and the truth that will find its fulfillment only when for each one of us there is a rising from the dead.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.