It is estimated that 500,000 young people from around the world are currently in Lisbon to celebrate World Youth Day. I have never been to this event, but I have found that at other gatherings which I have attended like Celebrate or Marriage Encounter Conventions; the most powerful part, is when we hear personal testimonies from people about how they have encountered Christ.

In the Scripture readings today, we have the Gospel from St Matthew telling us about what happened on the high mountain when Jesus was transfigured, and we have the personal testimony of Peter who was present when this happened. Peter saw Christ’s majesty and heard God’s voice declare the Son of Man was also the Son of God. There is a great description in one of the commentaries which I read to prepare for this reflection which I’d like to quote in full.

In Israelite tradition, certain characteristics belong to God alone. As the first reading and psalm recount, God has power over clouds, and exhibits sun-like radiance. The first reading speaks of other divine characteristics – authority, glory and kingship – that God has shared with a mysterious being called ‘one like a Son of man [Dn 7:13].

Jesus’ transfiguration reveals to Peter, James and John that he is that being. A cloud surrounds him, his face and clothing glow, and God reveals a Father’s love. Insights once limited to mystics and prophets now belong to fishermen who can behold such things without fear.”

Sourcebook for Sundays, Seasons and Weekdays 2023: The Almanac for Pastoral Liturgy, [Liturgy Training Publications, Chicago, Illinois,2022]292.

The great news for us is that we can also behold that information without fear, and we are all beloved children of God if we listen to Him. God was not just announcing that Jesus was his Son. God told us to listen to him.

The Transfiguration took place to strengthen the disciples for what Jesus had already foretold. He had told them about his Passion, and this must have frightened them. This teacher who they had given everything up to follow; was telling them that he was going to be killed by the people he had come to save. They must have been concerned and maybe even terrified; about what that would mean for them. The Transfiguration allowed three of the disciples to see a glimpse of who Jesus really was.

The significance of Moses and Elijah being present too would not have been lost on them; Moses who was charged with bringing the Jewish people out from slavery in Egypt and who gave them God’s laws to live by; alongside Elijah who was one of the greatest prophets and miracle workers of the Jewish people. For those three disciples this would have been confirmation that Jesus was truly their Messiah; the one promised to save the Jewish people.

As we know, when some of the Jewish people rejected Jesus, instead of God punishing all of mankind, He generously opened the promise up to all who would believe in Jesus as the Son of God. All of us, as followers of Christ, became children of God through our baptism. The catechism quotes St Thomas Aquinas as writing “Jesus’ baptism proclaimed, ‘the mystery of the first regeneration,’ namely our Baptism; the Transfiguration ‘is the sacrament of the second generation’: our own Resurrection” [CCC556].

The Transfiguration for us as Catholics is both a confirmation and a promise. The eyewitness testimony of Peter, James and John is confirmation that God allowed Jesus to be seen in His glory that day on the mountain. The promise is that if we listen to Jesus and follow his laws then we will see the Risen Lord at our resurrection.

In what areas of my life do I need to listen better to Jesus?

I think that if I can listen more during my prayer time, then I can get closer to Jesus. I also need to listen when things irritate me and not respond immediately; allowing myself to calm down before responding. This would allow me to be more at peace with my decisions and allow the Holy Spirit to guide my response.

Do I allow Jesus to transform my life?

If I am really honest with myself, I know that I compartmentalise my life at times. Putting things into their own boxes and often not allowing my faith to influence the parts I see as not being part of my faith. There is maybe a work section, a family section, a football section. I need to allow my faith to transform me from this compartmentalised view of life into a lived reality where it influences everything I do and say.

If I look back at myself from 10 or 15 years ago, I can see how Jesus has transformed my life from those days. 15 years ago, I was still fighting the call to the Diaconate and the thought of standing up and preaching a Homily, would have made me feel sick and want to run away. Now through the formation I have received and continue to receive I am able to prepare a Homily and read it aloud. The next stage for me will be trusting my memory enough to deliver it without reading it verbatim.

What about you?

Further Reading

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Transfiguration

CCC 554-556: A foretaste of the Kingdom: The Transfiguration

CCC 568: Christ’s Transfiguration
CCC 152, 240, 647-8 & 651: Revelation of the Son

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
  • Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
  • Those discerning a vocation.
  • All of those travelling to and from Lisbon for the World Youth Day activities.