Aug 6, 2023

First Reading (Daniel 7. 9 – 10, 13 – 14)
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 97
Second Reading (2 Peter 1. 16 – 19)
Gospel: Matthew 17. 1 – 9
Sometimes we can work beside someone without really getting to know the person; then, one
day, something happens which causes him to open up, to begin to let us get close to him, and we
discover a depth of riches which we didn’t know existed. This morning’s gospel is about an
experience analogous to that, where Peter, James and John are able for a moment to see who
Jesus really is. For the three apostles, it is an experience of something beyond words: frightening
and yet, at the same time, so wonderful that they would wish to prolong it by building three tents
– for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Reflecting on the experience, years later, Peter would write: “We
had seen his majesty for ourselves. He was honoured and glorified by God the Father, when the
Sublime Glory itself spoke to him” (1 Pet 1:17.)
The gospel mentions the whiteness of Jesus’s clothes; Mark says they became “dazzlingly white,
whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them.” Saint Gregory Nazianzen tells us that this
whiteness was the Divinity, manifested to the disciples. Traditionally, Moses and Elijah are seen
as representing the Law and the Prophets, an interpretation which we find in the preface of
today’s, Mass. But Moses and Elijah were also people who had encounters with the Divinity.
Both had to cross the desert, fast for forty days, and climb the mountain of God. Moses had
prayed to God, “Show me your glory.” When God revealed his back (not his face) to Moses, he
placed him in the cleft of the rock, and when he came to Elijah as a gentle breeze, it was at the
mouth of the cave. Perhaps these two are present as representing all those who desire to see
God’s glory: “When can I enter and see the face of God?” Is. 42:2) What were Moses and Elijah
talking about with Jesus? Luke says they were “speaking of his passing which he was to
accomplish in Jerusalem” (Lk 9:31), and indeed it was in his Passion that the face of God was to
be revealed, as John would later write: “No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is
nearest to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (Jn 1:18.)
The third and last place is the Mount of Transfiguration celebrated in today’s feast. This time it
was the turn of the disciples to be frightened (Mk 9:6). If Gethsemane was to be one of Christ’s
darkest moments, the Transfiguration was the brightest so far. What frightened the three disciples

wasn’t the prospect of suffering, of course. It was the awesome encounter with the unfamiliar.
Here was “the Christ” as they’d never seen him before. “Brilliantly white” in a way that couldn’t
be “earthly” (Mk 9:3). Adding to the unearthly and disconcerting nature of the experience was
the presence of such illustrious figures as Moses and Elijah, who lived longer than others did in
the memory of their people, but who, at the same time, had been a long time dead. Their presence
must be, in some way, an exaltation of Jesus, an exaltation that reached its zenith and startled
them completely when the voice came down from heaven. “This is my Son, the beloved. Listen
to him” (Mk 9:8). There had been lances exchanged after the raising of Jairus’s daughter.
Glances must have been exchanged again after the Transfiguration of Christ.
In the Transfiguration, the Father’s voice is heard saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to
him.” Gregory Palamas says: “The Father by his voice bore witness to his Beloved Son; the Holy
Spirit, shining with him in the bright cloud, indicated that the Son possesses with the Father the
light, which is one, like all that belongs to their richness.” Just as at the Baptism of Jesus, so also
at the Transfiguration, the heavens are opened and we receive a glimpse of the inner life of the
Trinity. Jesus is revealed as Son of the Father, who speaks from the cloud of Divine Presence,
where in dwells the Spirit.
The three apostles who would see Jesus prostrate in agony in Gethsemane were given this
glimpse of who he really is, to strengthen them for what lay ahead, and also to help them to
understand what is revealed in the Passion. John says in the Prologue, “we saw his glory;” is he
referring to the Transfiguration or to the Crucifixion, to Tabor or to Calvary? Or is there a sense
in which these two mountains are one? Is Tabor simply a preview of Calvary, rather than an
antidote: a deeper vision of the reality of the Crucifixion event?
Three people were invited on three separate occasions into three privileged moments in the life of
Jesus. They were handpicked each time. The person who chose them was Our Lord. The three he
chose were Peter, James and John. Even though we got no formal invitation ourselves, the Lord
won’t mind our being there. We’ll slip in and stay quietly in the background. We’ll see what the
apostles saw, hopefully. And we’ll have the added advantage of observing their reaction. At the
end of it all, with the help of God and the Gospel of St Mark, we’ll draw our own conclusions. It
should be interesting, to say the least.
The first place was the home of a synagogue official called Jairus. When Jairus first implored
Our Lord to cure his daughter, he described her as “desperately sick” (Mk 5:23). Before they got

near the house at all, the word came through that she had died. Jairus must have been hurrying
Jesus along, begging the people who were pressing upon them to keep back, wishing the little
woman with the running sore had chosen another time for her cure (Mk 5:29). Getting Jesus to
the house before his child died was the most important thing in the world. To hear that she was
already dead, and that they might have been in time to save her must have broken his heart. Jesus
knew what he was going to do. That’s why he chose Peter, James and John to go with him. Those
three and the father, mother, and himself would be the only people in the dead girl’s room. It’s
the casualness of the scene that makes it so momentous. He took her by the hand, told her to get
up, watched her walk around, told them to give her something to eat (Mk 5:43). Life took over
from death as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Almost imperceptibly, the ordinary
took upon itself the quality of imperishability. The balance of forces between life and death was
changing irrevocably in that – modest little room, and the three disciples were there to see it. It
wasn’t a time for levity, but you’d have to smile really, at the looks of astonishment that the three
of them exchanged!
The second place is the Garden of Gethsemane. Again, the only three of his disciples Jesus took
with him were Peter, James and John. This time Jesus didn’t know what he was going to do! He
was in such a state of terror and distress at the prospect of crucifixion that he was tempted, as
never before, to give up on his messianic mission and get out from under the cross. “My soul is
sorrowful to the point of death,” he told his disciples (Mk 14:34). “Take this cup away from me,”
he begged of “Abba’, his father (Mk 14:36). The acceptance of his father’s will couldn’t have
come as easily in practice as it comes in Mark’s prose. “Let it be, as you, not I, would have it”
(Mk 14:36).
That “Let it be” had survived the biggest crisis in Our Lord’s life so far and would still have to
endure the pitiless searchings of Calvary. Acceptance of the Father’s will, and the suffering it
entailed, wouldn’t be easy for the disciples either. They might have slept through his suffering;
they wouldn’t be able to sleep through their own. “Stay awake,” was his warning to Peter. “Stay
awake and pray not to be put to the test” (Mk 14:3 8).
Our human lives on earth can be compared to a Lenten Season of forty days in the midst of grim
darkness and evil spirit overpower us with their temptations, hunger and thirst physically and
spiritually thwart us. It is a typical vale of tears. During this sort of life our Master Jesus asks us
to fight the good fight and to run the race for victory, by always focusing ourselves to the goal he
promised for us and the promises he has left behind for us. We believe in them and like many

other disciples like Paul because we say to him: “Where shall we go Lord? You have the Eternal
God bless.