Jesus took Peter, James, and His brother John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And He was transfigured before them, and His clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: One for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.
As they were coming down from the mountain, He charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
HEWASTRANSFIGURED BEFORETHEM. The transfiguration happens while Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem. This is a journey that Jesus might have wanted to avoid, since He Himself had predicted that He would suffer greatly and be rejected by the religious leaders in the holy city. But He felt that He had to follow God’s “way” (cf Mk 8:31-33).
Today’s event is a pause on this difficult journey to put things in proper perspective. The ascent to Jerusalem is destined not for tragedy but for glory. The cross, a symbol of shame, suffering, and death, will become an icon of victory with Jesus’ resurrection. It is the resurrection that gives light to everything, and the transfiguration of Jesus on a high mountain is in anticipation of the resurrection. The transfigured appearance of Jesus, the voice of the Father declaring Jesus as the Son, and the appearance of the cloud that is an image of the Holy Spirit, are elements of the resurrection. It is in the resurrection that we see so clearly the glory of the Three Divine Persons, at work for our redemption.
The transfiguration, writes John Paul II, “is not only the revelation of Christ’s glory, but also a preparation for facing Christ’s cross. It involves both ‘going up the mountain’ and ‘coming down the mountain.’ The disciples who have enjoyed this intimacy with the Master, surrounded for a moment by the splendor of the Trinitarian life… are invited to return to the valley, to share with Jesus the toil of God’s plan and to set off courageously on the way of the cross” (Vita Consecrata, 14).