Scripture: Lectionary for Feast of the Transfiguration. Daniel 7:9-10.13-14. Psalm 97:1-2.5-6.9. II Peter 1:16-19. Mark 9:2-10
Before the Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John never gave much thought to the
resurrection. There was a general resurrection at which the Kingdom of God would come at the end of time for them as traditional Israelites, but they would not have imagined Jesus, as an individual, rising from the dead before the general resurrection.
They were “cradle Israelites” and just went along like most of us do practicing their religion without much concern about its depth of meaning or its eschatological purpose.
These three experience the luminous appearance of Jesus as he dialogues with Elijah and Moses. Both of these holy servants of God had a mystical like experience that led them to God. One may represent the prophetic dimension of the person of Elijah, while the other, Moses would be the law-giver and revealer. Jesus was probably flanked by them in the dialogue scene. Peter is in awe and wants to build some type of a tent to continue this awesome presence of Elijah, Jesus, and Moses. This may indicate that the Feast of Booths was being celebrated during the time of the Transfiguration. The mountain is not named but only Mount Hermon and Mount Tabor are given in the tradition of this event. I take it not as a resurrection appearance or a post-factum event after the resurrection that Mark hands on to us, but rather, a mystical experience of Jesus that helps the three followers of Jesus to prepare themselves for what lies ahead for them in following Jesus during the suffering, death, and resurrection he will undergo.
The most sane interpretation of this comes from a former classmate of mine, Fr. Henry Wansbrough, O.S.B. who in his commentary on Mark says this about the event of the Transfiguration of Jesus: “It is perhaps most satisfactory to consider the account to be an attempt to describe a mystical (but not therefore unreal) experience by these disciples of
Jesus’ transformation when in union with the Father in prayer (Luke 9:29). It would not be without analogy in the experience of the saints. This is one of those rare occasions after the introduction where apocalyptic language is used to show Jesus’ person and dignity. For men of those times it was a mode of expression which came easily.” ( A New Catholic Commentary on Scripture, page 968).
I see the experience as narrated by Mark, a watershed in developing his Christology and a lesson in discipleship for Peter, James, and John. It is an important transition for them in coming to know that the Jesus they touch and see as the “son of man” is also the beloved
“son of God” in whom the Father is very pleased. These two titles are important for the Christology of Mark; they will be taken up by the other evangelists including John. Thinking through the revelatory proclamation of the heavenly voice of the Father they will start to understand the mystery of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Down the mountain they are alone with Jesus and the vision will slowly fade from their memories for a while. They will grow in deepening their faith in the person of Jesus and thereby have a closer relationship with God through him. Soon they will be his real
presence as apostolic missionaries who bring the entire story of Jesus to those who are open to listening to them in their proclamation and writing of the Gospels. We, too, are being encouraged by their witness (martyrdom) to become “other Christs” and other apostles who are sent to all peoples. Amen.
Copyright 2012 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.