The meaning of Jesus’ transfiguration

by Shiu Lan
Second Sunday of Lent

Genesis 12:1-4A

2 Timothy 1:8B-10

Matthew 17:1-9

In this Sunday's Gospel Reading, we heard the narrative of Jesus' transfiguration before his apostles, Peter, James and John. I always find this passage empowering, so I read with intense interest an article about Mount Tabor, the mountain identified by biblical scholars as the mountain where the transfiguration happened. It was written by Jude Winkler, OFM Conv., and published in the Messenger of St. Anthony (Feb 2017 issue).

Mount Tabor is about 575 meters high, not an especially high mountain but it is not part of a mountain chain and stands as a sentinel over an important highway that leads to Damascus and was thus an important strategic site over the troubled history of Israel. In Jesus' time, it was not an easy site to reach. One had to climb 4,340 steps to reach the top.

Fr. Winkler said that for an instant, the veil was rolled back for the apostles to have a glimpse of Jesus' divine nature and the truth about Jesus. This was essential for they were shortly to witness Jesus' passion and death on the cross and this will give them the courage to survive that tragedy, to give them some insight into the deeper meaning of his death and resurrection.

Most of us have a similar experience in our spiritual lives. What Fr. Winkler wrote spoke to my heart: “We are going along or meditating or praying, and for an instant we have a sense of being in the presence of God. For that instant, everything suddenly makes sense. For us, it is as if the veil is rolled back as well. Then the dog barks or the phone rings and we have to go back to normal life.” God gives us those insights so that “we might have the courage to continue on the pathway of everyday life. Life can be difficult and confusing and we need that little bit of encouragement and insight to be able to carry on.”

I never really know why I always find the transfiguration narrative empowering especially when I am battered by worries and anxieties, when I am weak in the heart and soul and in need of a boost of spirit from the divine. Now I am enlightened.