Background on the Gospel Reading
Today’s liturgy invites us to celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. This feast calls to our attention the importance of this event in Jesus’ life, further affirmed by its report in each of the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Cycle A, the reading for this feast is taken from the Gospel of Matthew. The Transfiguration occurs after Peter confesses his belief that Jesus is the Messiah and after Jesus predicts his Passion. In each of these Gospels, a discussion of the cost of discipleship precedes the Transfiguration.
In each Gospel, Jesus takes three of his disciples—Peter, James, and John—to a high mountain. While they are there, Elijah and Moses appear and converse with Jesus. Elijah and Moses are both significant figures in the history of Israel. Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and received from Yahweh the Ten Commandments. Moses represents the Law, which guides the lives of the Jewish people. Elijah is one of the most important prophets of Israel who helped the Israelites stay faithful to Yahweh, and some believed that Elijah’s return would signal the coming of the Messiah for the Jewish people. The appearance of these two figures from Israel’s history indicated Jesus’ continuity with the Law and the prophets. They also reveal that Jesus is the fulfillment of all that was promised to the people of Israel.
Upon witnessing Jesus’ Transfiguration and seeing Jesus with Elijah and Moses, an awestruck Peter offered to construct three tents for them when a voice from Heaven affirms that Jesus is "my beloved Son" and commands the disciples to listen to him.
In each of the reports of the Transfiguration, Jesus instructed the disciples to keep secret what they had seen until after "the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." Until they witnessed Jesus’ Passion and Death, the disciples could not possibly understand what he meant by being "raised from the dead." We, however, have the benefit of hindsight. In our hearing of the Transfiguration Gospel, we see an anticipation of Jesus’ Resurrection, a foreshadowing of Christ’s glory in Heaven, and the promise of our own resurrection.
Courtesy of Loyola Press