“Six days later” is an odd way to start a story. But it’s not the start. The story starts six days earlier, when Jesus invites his disciples on the way of radical self-giving love, the way of the cross. At first Peter refuses to believe Jesus. Six days later (on the seventh day, a day of completion), God says, “Listen to him!”
The story of the Transfiguration is not about glory; it’s about the cross. It is God’s affirmation of the way of self-sacrificial love. Taken out of context it can seem like a poster of triumphalism. But it’s really an affirmation of the humility, powerlessness, self-emptying, and suffering of radical love. Jesus, who has advocated such radical self-giving, appears in resurrection light.
The way of dying Jesus describes is a way of rising. The Transfiguration affirms what Jesus has said six days earlier: Lose your life in love, and you will be given life that cannot be taken from you, a life that is eternal. Love is the glory of God. Love fulfills the law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah). The cross is the way of life. Love is the reason and heart of our faith.
When we love, we shine with the light of God. When we forgive, we have “died and gone to heaven.” When we stand up for justice, we taste resurrection. The world will resist us and make us pay the cost. The world will ridicule us and call us failures. But the glory of God shines in us, and the light of eternal life radiates from within us. We can take courage, then, and give ourselves to a life of love and self-sacrifice. For love, and love alone, is the light of God.
Trusting this, we are now ready to journey with Jesus through Lent toward the cross.
Crucified and risen Christ, give me courage to follow you. May the light of your self-giving love shine in me. Amen.
The Transfiguration is a striking manifestation of the union of humanity and divinity in Christ. In Exodus, Moses goes up the mountain to meet with God, and the divine presence on the mountain is like a consuming fire. The psalmist says that the presence of the Lord shakes the earth. In Second Peter the author declares that the truth of Christ’s message is affirmed by the glory that surrounds Jesus on the mountain and the voice from heaven that confirms his authority. In Matthew’s account, the revelation of the glory of the divine son of God on top of a mountain causes the disciples to fall down in fear. Moses and Elijah are present, demonstrating the continuity of Christ with the prophets and the always overwhelming splendor of God’s presence.
Read Exodus 24:12-18. When have you experienced God’s cleansing and transforming fire?
Read Psalm 99. How has God led you through darkness?
Read 2 Peter 1:16-21. How can you be attentive to the light of God in the world around you?
Read Matthew 17:1-9. When have you experienced God’s love shining through you?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.