SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ DN 7:9-1013-14PS 96:1-2,5-6,92 PT 1:16-19MT 17:1-9 ]

What is the purpose of building a Church?  The Church exists for the world and for society.  We must be clear from the outset that the Church does not exist simply for the Christian Community to gather together for worship, formation and fellowship. That is why the Church is missionary in nature.  The Church is founded for a mission, which is to extend the Kingdom of God’s rule of justice, peace, love and unity among all men and women.  This is what the vision of St John in the first reading tells us.  “On him was conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship, and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.  His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty which shall never pass away, nor will his empire ever be destroyed.”  We are called to radiate Christ to the world.  Many are seeking hope, meaning and purpose in life.  Many are seeking God.  We are called to show forth the glory of God in our lives.

Of course, before the Church can exist for the world, she must exist first and foremost for the Christian community. The Church is the Sacrament of Christ, the symbol of His presence in our lives and in the world.   It is through the Church as a community of believers that Christ is seen in the world.  But before Christians can be a sign of His presence in the world for humanity, they must first receive the love and truth from the Lord.  They must be transfigured in Christ and become another Christ.  They need to encounter the Lord in a special way as the apostles did at Mount Tabor.  Without a Christ-experience encounter, our faith in Christ would be weak because it is based only on hear-say information and testimonies.  Indeed, St Peter confirmed this prophecy rendering the basis for their belief in the resurrection of Christ.  He wrote, “It was not any cleverly invented myths that we were repeating when we brought you the knowledge of the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; we had seen his majesty for ourselves. We heard this ourselves, spoken from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain.  So we have confirmation of what was said in prophecies.” (cf 2 Pt 1:16-19)

Indeed, this was the case for Jesus in His Transfiguration.  This event happened firstly for Jesus Himself.  We note that the Transfiguration took place after the confession of Peter that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  From that moment onwards, Jesus started to speak about His imminent suffering, passion and death.  He knew that the only way to establish the love of His Father was for Him to go up to Jerusalem and face the authorities.  However, He needed a final impetus to find the courage and confirmation to go ahead.  It was in this context that the Father once again reaffirmed Jesus in the same way He affirmed Him at the beginning of His mission at His baptism in the river Jordan.  Again, the Father said to His Son, but this time addressed to the apostles, “This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.”   At the same time, appearing with the Lord was Moses, the Lawgiver and Elijah, the greatest prophet in the history of Israel.  By so doing, the heavenly Father confirmed Jesus as the Word of God in person, for Jesus sums up the laws and the prophets.  He said, “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”  (Mt 22:38)  Jesus is the love of God in person, and He loved His Father with all His heart, mind and soul and loved His neighbor as Himself.

But the Transfiguration event was not just for the Lord to find strength and confirmation of His mission to go up to Jerusalem.  It was also for the sake of the apostles.   The Father knew that the apostles would lose courage and faith when the time came for Jesus to go through the passion and finally meet His death on the cross.  The Father knew that the apostles would betray the Lord.  This vision was necessary to sustain them in bad times.  Indeed, when the Lord was arrested, put on trial and crucified, the apostles and His disciples were in dismay and totally confused and lost.  Later on, when they heard the news of the Lord’s resurrection, it was too difficult to believe that it was true in spite of the many reports of His sighting.  We can be sure that, reflecting on the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, they remembered the prophecy given at Mount Tabor through the transfiguration event.

But more than just to bolster the apostles’ faith in the Risen Christ, it was for the sake of the mission in the future.  This explains why when the apostles wanted to remain on the mountain to bask in the beautiful vision they had by building three tents, the Father told them to listen to the Son.  “Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus. As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, ‘Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.’”  Instead of staying on the mountain and starting an enclave there, they were to follow Jesus down the mountain to face the reality, the sufferings and the struggles of life.   A Christian community or a Church is never meant to be an enclave where Christians come together for worship and fellowship, closed up among themselves.  This is not what a Christian community should do.  We are called to be one in love and unity, formed in faith and discipleship, so that we can go down the mountain and reach out to others in service and love.  

What about us?  Have we had a Transfiguration experience in our lives?  St John Paul II wrote that many people are seeking God.  “And is it not the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make his face shine also before the generations of the new millennium?  Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated his face. The Great Jubilee has certainly helped us to do this more deeply.”  (NMI 16)  All the great apostles had radical encounters with the Lord.  St Peter was converted because of the miraculous catch of fish before and after his conversion, when Jesus appeared to him after His resurrection.  St Paul encountered the Risen Lord at Damascus and appointed by Him to be His apostle.  St John had this vision of the Lord’s glory again when he was in exile in Patmos.

Indeed, we cannot be His witnesses unless we see His face, the face of the crucified and risen Lord.  Unless we have contemplated on His passion, death and resurrection and seen in the face of Christ, the love of the Father for us, His compassion and mercy, there is no mission.   For that reason, we need to see the Lord in the primacy of grace in our lives.  There are many occasions when we saw how God’s hands had helped us to make the impossible a reality.  So many times, in our lives, we had been so broken, hopeless, and we wanted to give up, but the Lord came to our help.

This Christ-encounter is mediated through worship and intimacy with the Lord.  We see the face of Christ especially when we hear the Word of God by reading the scriptures and by hearing the Word proclaimed and shared at mass and among our brothers and sisters in faith community sharing groups.   For this reason, the Church, as the Sacrament of Christ, becomes the basis for the celebration of the Seven Sacraments which are means by which a person is Christified, received into the Church and incorporated more and more into Christ and His body, the Church.  In this way, we become more like Jesus. Together as individuals and as Church, we become the face of Christ in the world.

In this way, we will become truly transfigured in Him and become Christ’s presence in our families, schools, workplace, society and country.  It is therefore important that as Church, we must come together not just to worship but to form each other in faith and in love, so that strengthened by His love for us we can be more committed in serving humbly and selflessly, society and the nation.  This is the most visible way of manifesting Christ to the world through our contributions to society and charity.

Yet, in the face of struggles and trials in living out the Christian life, we must return to that Christ-encounter to sustain us.  We need to be constantly renewed in the love of Christ for us.  The apostles in their trials during their apostolate returned to the Transfiguration Experience so that they would not give up hope in the face of difficulties.  We must always go back to that special moment of encounter with God if we are to be able to deal with the challenges of life.  It is like those who are married.  Whenever we feel like giving up our marriage, we remember the good old days we had with our spouse.  Remembering those memorable and significant events will give us the courage to continue. The celebration of the Transfiguration of our Lord is to renew our hope and confidence in Him and in the future that is to come for us all.  May this celebration renew our hope for the future and sustain our faith in times of trials.