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Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Story of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai, FMH
The Transfiguration of the Lord, August 6, 2017
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya

All three Synoptic Gospels tell the story of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-9; Luke 9:28-36). With remarkable agreement, all three place the event shortly after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah. Peter’s eagerness to erect tents or booths on the spot suggests it occurred during the week-long Jewish Feast of Booths in the fall.

According to scholars, despite the texts’ agreement it is difficult to reconstruct the disciples’ experience, because the Gospels draw heavily on Old Testament descriptions of the Sinai encounter with God, and prophetic visions of the Son of Man. Certainly, the glimpse of Jesus' divinity struck fear into the hearts of  Peter, James, and John. Such an experience defies description. They drew on familiar religious experience to describe it. 

Jesus warned them that His glory and His suffering were to be inextricably connected—a theme John highlights throughout his Gospel.

Tradition names Mount Tabor as the site of this revelation. A church first raised there in
Mount Tabor
 the fourth century was dedicated on August 6. The Eastern Church celebrated a feast in honor of the Transfiguration since then. Western observance began in some localities about the eighth century.

On July 22, 1456, Crusaders defeated the Turks at Belgrade. News of the victory reached Rome on August 6. So Pope Callistus III placed the feast on the Roman calendar the following year. He elevated the Transfiguration to a Feast to be celebrated in the entire Roman rite.

The common theme of today’s readings is the Lord sent by God the Father and received
 by Him to be given everlasting kingship, dominion and glory over all nations.

Today’s Gospel describing Christ’s Transfiguration challenges us to rekindle our faith as true disciples of Jesus Christ, just as the passages from Daniel 7 and 2 Peter were written to strengthen the faith of their audiences in times of persecution. In the feast of the Transfiguration, the Church both commemorates the event of the Lord’s Transfiguration and shows us the way to our own transfiguration.

The primary purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration was to consult his Heavenly Father in order to ascertain His plan for Our Lord’s suffering, death and Resurrection. The secondary aim was to make Jesus’ chosen disciples aware of His Divine glory, so that they might discard their worldly ambitions about a conquering
Jesus Meek and Mild 
political Messiah. A third purpose was to strengthen their faith and encourage them to persevere through the future ordeal. The Transfiguration took place in late summer, probably in AD 29, just prior to the Feast of Tabernacles. Hence, the Orthodox tradition celebrates the Transfiguration at about the time of the year when it actually occurred in order to connect it with the Old Testament Feast of Tabernacles. Western tradition celebrates the Transfiguration twice, first at the beginning of Lent with the Gospel account and second on August 6 with a full feast.

We meet Jesus in a most intimate way every time we receive him in the Eucharist. It is the time when we are closest to Jesus. Jesus also speaks to our hearts when we read the
Scripture. We meet Jesus personally in an encounter of intimacy in all the sacraments. Finally, we see Christ in holy souls like Pope Saint John Paul II and Mother Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

After the Resurrection, Peter and James needed to know that Jesus did not 
hold their abandonment against them.  So we also need to be reconciled to Jesus often. We need to
meet Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There are times when we do not listen to Jesus, times when we deny Jesus in our families, or perhaps where we work, or maybe in our communities. We are not conquered by our sinfulness. We
can repent just as Peter and James did.

Hence, just as Jesus’ Transfiguration strengthened the Apostles in their time of trial, each Holy Mass should be our source of strength against our own temptations. In addition, communion with Jesus in prayer and in the Eucharist, should be a source of daily transformation. 
We must become more humble and selfless, sharing love, compassion and forgiveness with others.

Pope Francis hugs Vinicio Riva
In our everyday lives, we often fail to recognize Jesus when he appears to us transfigured.  He is hidden in someone who is in need or acts very unpleasantly. With the eyes of faith, we must see Jesus in every child of God we come across every day and respond to them with love and service.

Baptism transforms us into sons and daughters of God and heirs of heaven. Confirmation makes us the temples of the Holy Spirit. By approaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God brings us back to the path of holiness. By receiving in faith the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, we are spiritually, and -- if God wills -- physically, healed and our sins are forgiven.

The Transfiguration offers us a message of hope. In moments of discouragement, the expectation of our transformation in Heaven helps us to reach out to God and listen to His consoling words: “This is my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased.”

We need these mountain-top experiences in our own lives. We can share the experience of Peter, James and John when we spend time in prayer. Fasting and almsgiving help steady our spirit, lifting our thoughts to God.    Such a fast may also help us to remember our suffering neighbour, and make us more willing to help.

Happy Feast Day ... 
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

*Fr. Joe Mungai, FMH, is a Franciscan Missionary of Hope, a relatively new congregation started in Nairobi, Kenya in 1993. He was ordained June 7, 2014. 

July 18, 2017: Fr. Joe's vehicle in Africa is busted. If you would like to help him serve his African parishioners send your donation to Fr Francis Kamau, Pastor St Mary of the Pines Catholic Church, 1050 Bert Kouns Industrial Loop, Shreveport,Louisiana 71118. The check or Western Union Funds should be made out to Fr. Francis Kamau for the purpose of repairing Fr. Joe Mungai's car in Kenya. He will forward the money to Fr. Joe. God bless you. Editor

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