The story of the Transfiguration invites us to accompany Jesus as he journeys through death to the life of the resurrection, a life which God prepares for us too, a life we can scarcely imagine. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
28 Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. 29 As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. 30 Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah 31 appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ -He did not know what he was saying. 34 As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. 35 And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ 36 And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.
Other readings: Genesis 15:5-12,17-18 Psalm 26 (27) Philippians 3:17-4:1
After the stark reading about the temptations of Jesus in last Sunday’s gospel we hear the gospel of the Transfiguration on the second Sunday of Lent. The story, found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, is an extraordinary one, narrating a mysterious event which deeply struck the disciples.
Jesus is seen transformed by three of his disciples. His face is changed and he wears brilliant clothing, which suggests the life of the resurrection. Moses and Elijah are with him. These two great figures from the Scriptures were believed, after many trials, to have been taken to the presence of God. No burial-place of Moses was ever found. Elijah, it was believed, had been taken up to heaven in a chariot. Luke says that they speak with Jesus of his ‘passing’ or ‘exodus’, his leaving this world to return to the Father, that journey through suffering and death which they too have known. It is as if they provide encouragement as Jesus begins his journey to Jerusalem and to death.
The story of the Transfiguration is very elaborate. We read it in Lent both to focus on the triumph of Jesus beyond the cross, and to hear again the words: This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him! Above all it invites us to accompany Jesus as he journeys through death to the life of the resurrection, a life which God prepares for us too, a life we can scarcely imagine.
What message can we take from the gospel of the Transfiguration in times of trial?
Do I really listen to the words of the Son, found in the Holy Scriptures?
We pray for courage as we face the difficulties of life.
We pray for the freedom to allow the hope of the resurrection to transform our lives.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy