Friday, February 17, 2017


Homily for February 18th, 2017: Mark 9:2-13

          Few incidents in the gospels are so difficult to speak about as the one we celebrate today. The Transfiguration is a mystery. Not that we can understand nothing about it; but that we can understand will always be less than the whole. The gospel writers use symbols to describe the mystery. Today we have time to speak only about one: the cloud. 

         Repeatedly in Holy Scripture the cloud symbolizes God’s presence. During their desert wanderings God’s people were led onward by a cloud. Mt. Sinai was enveloped in a cloud when Moses received the Ten Commandments. A cloud received the risen Lord at his Ascension.  

          The voice from the cloud repeats the words heard at Jesus’ baptism: “This is my beloved Son, on whom my favor rests.” Here, however, the words are addressed not to Jesus, but to his disciples. The concluding words, “Listen to him,”  remind us of Moses’ prophecy: “The Lord your God will raise up a prophet from among you like myself, and you shall listen to him” (Dt. 18:15).

          The Transfiguration is a mystery because it opens a window onto a world beyond this one. For a brief moment, the veil between time and eternity, between earth and heaven, is lifted. Jesus’ friends catch a glimpse of the invisible, spiritual world of God. The concluding words, “Listen to him,” express the significance of the mystery for Jesus’ friends, ourselves included. 

          We, the friends and followers of Jesus Christ, are the company of those who listen to his words. Jesus does not grant to us, any more than he granted to Peter, James, and John, the continuous vision of his glory. We live not on the mountaintop of great spiritual experiences, but in the valley of life’s ordinary duties. There we do not look for dazzling visions from beyond. Instead we listen for Jesus’ voice.

          Jesus speaks to us in many ways: in the Scriptures, in the teaching of his Church, through the circumstances of daily life. He speaks to us in the promptings of conscience, and in the needs of those whom we encounter along life’s way.

          For a moment, before the descent of the cloud, the three friends of Jesus see their friend and Master transformed beyond anything they could have imagined. The Transfiguration is a manifestation of Christ’s divinity, from a moment breaking through the veil of his humanity.

          Today the Lord God is still speaking to us the words first heard by those three friends of Jesus on the mountain two thousand years ago:

          “This is my beloved Son, on whom my favor rests. Listen to him.”