The Transfiguration: A Glorious Moment to Encourage Jesus

February 23, 2018

The Pastor's Page

As we begin Lent, we look ahead to the end of Lent and the celebration of the Paschal Mystery during the Sacred Triduum, the commemoration of the Passion, death, and Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter.

At the midpoint of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus predicted to his disciples that this would take place: “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days” (Mk 8:31).

This alarming news shocked his disciples, but it was far worse for Jesus. Jesus had seen crucifixions before. He knew how cruel the Romans could be. The thought that he would have to endure something so ghastly and excruciating was dreadful, almost intolerable. Jesus understood that a person has to take up his cross (see Mk 8:34) and that a person has to lose his life to save it (see Mk 8:35). For Jesus, his words of advice to his disciples were not just religious slogans or pious platitudes; they would be a brutally harsh reality for him. It rocked him to the core. It would make a person stop in his tracks. It was time to reassess. How could he possibly carry on? It was a decisive moment, a moment of decision. Jesus wondered, “Shall I continue with my mission or shall I abandon the plan?” It was time to recommit.

His Father in heaven intervened. Jesus went up a high mountain and was transfigured. His clothes became dazzling white, like no robes on earth, only the robes in heaven. Moses and Elijah appeared, visitors from heaven. A cloud enveloped them, as a cloud surrounds all of the angels and saints in heaven. A voice was heard that came from heaven. Just when Jesus was tempted not to endure the suffering to come (see Mk 8:32b,33), the Father gave his Son timely help, a glimpse of heaven, a vision of the glory in store for him, the place where he would return and reign in majesty for all eternity, if he would only endure the hardships that lay ahead.

This glorious moment gave Jesus the boost he needed. He was more determined than ever to make the journey to Jerusalem. Without further delay, which the building of tents would have caused (Mk 9:5), he descended the mountain, and encouraged by his Transfiguration, even though he knew that untold torment and affliction were in his future, after having basked in glory only briefly, he could see that the Son of Man would also rise from the dead (Mk 9:9b).

The Father gave the Son a glorious moment to help him persevere, to let him know that there would be a glorious reward on the other side of his trials and tribulations. The Basilica of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor in Israel commemorates this event, and there is a beautiful mosaic in the dome of the apse above the high altar that depicts Jesus in radiant glory.

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About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

View all posts by Father Michael Van Sloun