Today’s Gospel reading at Mass gave us a lovely account of the transfiguration of the Lord according to Matthew – an event in the Lord’s life of light, life, radiance, beauty, majesty, silence and awe as the writer Michael Hewlett put it:
“Once on a mountain top there stood three startled men and watched the wheels of nature stop and heaven break in.”

Just before the account of the Transfiguration which we read to-day from chapter 17 we find the first prophecy of the Passion at the end of chapter 16:
“From that time on Jesus began to make it clear to the disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be put to death and to be raised up on the third day.”
Immediately after that – the condition of our following Christ is given: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine”, Jesus says “he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

It seems quite obvious why Jesus leads Peter, James and John – the three chosen witnesses who accompanied Him to Gethsemanie and on other special occasions, up the mountain to experience this extraordinary event in His life, was to help them accept the revelation He had just made regarding His forthcoming Passion and death or to avoid them being scandalised in their hearts by the Cross. We know that Peter in no uncertain terms, up to now refused to accept that fact “Heaven preserve you Lord, this must not happen to you.” But Jesus replies: “get behind me Satan”.

Here on the mountain we are very familiar with the account of the Transfiguration
Jesus is transfigured
His face shines like the sun
His garments become white as light
Then they see Moses and Elijah who represent the Law and the Prophets. St john Chrysostom explains why it is these two men who appeared – Jesus was always being accused of breaking the Law and blaspheming so it is important by Moses’ presence here that Jesus prove himself guiltless and then Elijah because the multitudes thought Jesus was Elijah or one of the prophets. He brings with Him the chief of the Prophets that hence at least may be seen the difference between the servants and their Lord.

It is in Luke’s account that the answer to our curious minds’ question is answered. What were Moses, Elijah and Jesus talking about? Luke says: “They spoke of His departure/ His Passing – in other words His death which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem (Lk 9:30). Passover through Death to Life.

Then Peter says: “Lord it is wonderful for us to be here – if you wish I will make three tabernacles – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. St John Chrysostom says: “Peter yet fears for Christ going up to Jerusalem and thought this place of quietude and solitude would be a fit place to take up their abode and concluded that if Jesus did this He would not go up to Jerusalem and therefore He would not die”. But St Jerome says: “Thou art wrong Peter – think not of three tabernacles when there is but one tabernacle of the Gospel in which both Law and Prophets are to be repeated – just make one tabernacle in thy bosom for Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Then the bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice from the cloud said: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased – listen to Him.” The Father makes it quite clear to the apostles that Jesus is the One to whom they must listen – to obey and follow.

The three Apostles are filled with fear but Jesus gently touches them and speaks words of comfort: “Stand up and do not be afraid” – they raised their eyes and saw no one only Jesus – the Law and prophets are now found in the Gospel.

We all have our Mount Tabor experiences and we too have to stand and descend the mountain with Jesus to the plain – holding His hand at all times knowing that in the words of the hymn: “Christ leads me through no darker rooms than He went through before.” I cannot forget, as Peter was tempted, that I am mortal and cannot come to eternal happiness without the taste of death and only then reach eternal life.
Today’s Prayer sums up the mystery very well:
God our Father,
You bid us listen to your Son, the well-beloved.
Nourish our hearts on your work,
Purify the eyes of our mind
And fill us with joy at the vision of your glory.