AD SENSE

Aug 6: Transfiguration of the Lord

Opening Stories:
1) The Samurai Warrior and the Zen Master

One day, a Samurai warrior went to a Zen master for instruction. "Please," the huge man asked in a thundering voice that was used to instant obedience, "teach me about heaven and hell."
The master scowled at the swordsman, then broke into mocking laughter. "Me, teach you about heaven and hell? I wouldn't waste a moment trying to instruct the brain of an overweight ignoramus like you! How dare you ask me for such a lofty insight?"
Well, upon hearing these words, the Samurai grew furious. No one could insult him like this and get away with it. Enraged, his face flushed and he drew his sword to chop off the teacher's head. Just as he was about to strike, the master raised his hand and calmly said "That, sir, is hell." 


Upon hearing this, the samurai suddenly realized the profound lesson the master had just taught him – that we make our own hell by indulging in anger and resentment. The warrior was so grateful for this teaching that he dropped his sword and fell to his knees in front of the Master, bowing in humility and gratitude. When he looked up, the old man was smiling.
"And that, sir," the teacher noted, "is Heaven.
"You risked your very life to teach me in this way?", the Samurai couldn't help asking the master.
"I figured that there was no other way you would have learnt!", the master calmly explained.


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Rev. Richard J. Fairchild


The story is told about  
         A man took his new hunting dog on a trial hunt one day.
         After a while he managed to shoot a duck and it fell in
         the lake.  The dog walked over the water, picked up the
         duck, and brought it to his master.
          The man was stunned.  He didn't know what to think.  He
         shot another duck and again, it fell into the lake and
         again the dog walked over the water and brought it back to his master.
         Hardly daring to believe his eyes, and not wanting to be
         thought a total fool, he told no-one about it - but the
         next day he called his neighbour to come shooting with
         him.  As on the previous day he shot a duck and it fell
         into the lake.  The dog walked over the water and got it.
         His neighbour didn't say a word.  Several more ducks got
         shot that day - and each time the dog walked over the
         water to retrieve them - and each time the neighbour said
         nothing and neither did the owner of the dog. 

         Finally - unable to contain himself any longer the owner
         asked his neighbour - "do you notice anything strange
         about my dog??"


         Yes - replied the neighbour - rubbing his chin and
         thinking a bit - come to think of it I do - your dog
         doesn't know how to swim.."


The story of the transfiguration of Jesus is a difficult one to


talk about. 


Many people have difficulty understanding what happened

         - the experience is outside of their frame of reference,
         - it just doesn't click with them,
          just as seeing the dog walking on the water didn't really
          click with the neighbour in the story I just told.
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1. Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J

 There is always something awe-inspiring about mountains. On the top the air is clean and crisp. The panoramic view of the surrounding country-side lifts us from the hustle and bustle of the rat-race, and raises our mind and heart to God.
The top of a mountain is a natural place for encountering God. It is small wonder then that in the Bible God often chooses a mountain top to reveal Himself and His plans. It was on Mount Sinai that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. Jesus gave his first teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. He often retired to the mountain at night to pray. He was crucified on Mount Calvary and ascended to heaven from Mount Olivet.
In today’s Gospel he is Transfigured before his apostles on Mount Tabor. Peter, James and John are with him. And they will be with him in the agony of the garden. This will be a preparation for that ordeal. Moses and Elijah are also present speaking with Jesus about his approaching death. Moses is the great law giver and Elijah the great prophet. In the presence of these two, representing the law and the prophets the voice of the Father is heard, “This is my beloved son listen to him.” Slowly, the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant is taking place.
Jesus came not to destroy the law and the prophets but to bring them to completion. Christianity is not to be an abstract creed or code but a Person. Jesus Christ, true God and true man is to be “the way, the truth and the life.” We are to listen to Him and follow Him. The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that “In times past God spoke to us through the prophets…but in these last days through his Son.”
For Jesus the Transfiguration was the turning point in his life. Until now all was onward and upward. He was captivating the people with his preaching and miracles. Now he must descend to the valley, to the road to Gethsemane and Calvary. The Transfiguration gave Jesus a foretaste of his glory, and in the strength of that joy he could endure the cross and despise the shame. But most of all the Transfiguration gave Jesus another affirmation of his Father’s love. At His baptism in the Jordan his Father had affirmed him, “This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests.” Now he says, “This is my beloved son, listen to him.”
For the apostles it was an awe-inspiring experience. They had never seen their master like this before. Peter, filled with consolation says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. Let us erect three booths here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But it is not to be. This is only a preparation for things to come. With Jesus they must descend the mountain to the valley below and on to the garden of Gethsemane and Calvary. On Mount Tabor they didn’t want to leave. In the Garden of Gethsemane they didn’t want to stay. When Jesus was arrested they all fled.
We can all identify with the apostles because in our mountain-top experiences of joy and consolation we also want to stay. We want them to go on forever. And then in the moments of trial we want to flee. We forget that our Lord did not promise us a rose garden, but a garden of olives and a crown of thorns. “If anyone will come after me let him pick up his cross daily and follow me.”
The Transfiguration was the mountain-top experience of the apostles which prepared them for their future trials. The Mass is our mountain-top experience which prepares us for the trials of our day. The Mass is not a transfiguration but a transubstantiation, in which bread and wine are transformed into the glorious Risen Jesus. And in the joy and consolation of Communion we say with Peter, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” And we do not want to leave. But it is not to be. Soon we will hear the words, “The Mass is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” So we pick up our cross and leave to face the trials of the day. But having been to the top of the mountain we know that “nothing can separate us from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
2. Paddy Duffy offers these notes on the feast.
The date for this feast – 6th August – seems to have been chosen in order to be exactly forty days before 14th September, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, because of a tradition that the Transfiguration took place forty days before the crucifixion. Patrick Duffy notes its history and significance.This feast began to be celebrated in and around Jerusalem in the fourth and fifth centuries.
Callixtus III, Papa ; 8 /4/1455 – 6 /8/1458A major feast at Constantinople
The feast probably reached Constantinople during the time of the great hymn-writer Andrew of Crete (c. 660-740), who was a monk at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from 675 until 685, when he moved to serve at the Great Church of Sancta Sophia, Constantinople. Later he became Archbishop of Gortyna in Crete. It was a major feast, which developed a magnificent series of hymns and readings.

Spain, Cluny and Rome


Callixtus III, Papa ; 8 /4/1455 – 6 /8/1458
The feast appeared in the West, first in Spain in the eleventh century, then at Cluny, when Peter the Venerable was abbot (1122-56). Its introduction to Rome is associated with the Christian defeat of the Turks at Belgrade on 22 July 1456. The news reached Rome on 6th August, so Pope Callixtus III (Alfons de Borja 1455-8), a Valencian sensitive to the memory of Moorish domination in Spain, decreed it as a feast for the Roman Church beginning on 6th August 1457.
Gospels’ account
All three synoptic Gospels – Mark, Matthew, and Luke – give us an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus on top of Mount Tabor (Mark 9:1-8, Matthew 17:1-6, Luke 9:28-36). After Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the One sent by God to redeem mankind, and Jesus prediction of His own passion and death, Jesus, together with three of His disciples – Peter, James, the son of Zebedee, and John – went up the mountain.

Moses and Elijah
Matthew says Jesus “was transfigured before them. His face shone as the sun: his garments became white as snow”. Two other figures appeared with Him: Moses and Elijah. Christ thus stood between the two prominent figures in the Old Testament. Then, a voice was heard from above saying, “This is My Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him.”

transfiguration3Significance
Jesus ordered the three not to tell others what they had seen until he had risen on the third day. Even if they did not fully comprehend what had happened on Mount Tabor, for the apostles Peter, James, and John, it was a glimpse of the glories of heaven and of sharing in the resurrection of Christ promised to all who believe in Jesus as the One promised by God. That event served as an inspiration for them to persevere and be steadfast in their faith in Jesus who would suffer and die but would be resurrected after three days.

Symbol and hope of glory
Jesus’s transfiguration is the symbol and hope of our glory in heaven. For us celebrating the Feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration today – we hope it will give us some foretaste of our own Easter.

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From the Connections:

THE WORD:
Today’s Solemnity of the Transfiguration celebrates the extraordinary transformation of Jesus witnessed Gospel, Peter, James and John on (tradition says) Mount Tabor. 
Matthew’s account (which takes place six days after Jesus’ first prediction of his passion and his first instructions on the call to discipleship) is filled with images from the First Testament: the voice in the cloud which repeats Isaiah’s “Servant” proclamation, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, the dazzling white garments of Jesus. 
Matthew’s primary interest is the disciple’s reaction to the event: their awe at this spectacular vision will soon wither into fear at the deeper meaning of the transfiguration – a meaning that they do not yet grasp.  As the disciples will later understand, the transfiguration is a powerful sign that the events ahead of them in Jerusalem are indeed the Father’s will.

HOMILY POINTS: The use of the Greek word “transfiguration” indicates that what the disciples saw in Jesus on Mount Tabor was a divinity that shone from within him.  That same divinity – the sacred character of God in whose image we have been created – dwells within each one of us, enabling us to “transfigure” our lives in the life of God.
Christ calls all who would be his disciples to “transfigure” our lives and our world in the love of God, to “transfigure” despair into hope, sadness into joy, anguish into healing, estrangement into community.
Peter’s suggestion that three booths be built to memorialize this extraordinary vision receives no response from Jesus. The transfigured Jesus asks more of us than memorials of wood and stone – he seeks to be a living presence that illuminates and transforms human hearts.
 

The unlocking of Grace
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of the world’s most popular and beloved children’s books.  The book follows the journey of a hungry caterpillar from egg to caterpillar to cocoon to beautiful butterfly.
The book is the work of Eric Carle.  Carle has written and illustrated more than seventy other books for children in his unique style of cutout pages and patchwork collages.  
Carle remembers how the world of color and storytelling opened up to him when he was a painfully shy six-year-old.
“When I was six, the world seemed a cold and confusing place, except for one thing — a picture of a cityscape at night — red brick buildings with darkened windows, except for one, exploding with the joyful colors of a Christmas tree.  The picture faced my bed, and every night I fell asleep comforted by the warmth of that bright tree in the dark night.  The picture was the work of an art director at my father’s job.  Once, my father took me to work, and even though I was so shy I could barely speak, the art director smiled as if he understood everything about me, and it was okay.  He smiled and he opened the drawer of his drafting table — a treasure of colored drawing pencils.  ‘You can use them all,’ he said.  I had no language for what I felt, but today I would call it Grace.”
Since that day, millions of children have experienced that Grace as they opened up the treasure that is an Eric Carle picture book.

[Spirituality & Health, May-June 2007.]

A wise and perceptive artist unlocks a little boy’s potential enabling him to see a new world of color and story.  This moment of Grace is an experience of transfiguration — the opening up of the sacred and holy within.  In the event we have come to call Jesus’ “transfiguration,” the three disciples realize the divinity — the very life and love of God — that exists within the person of Jesus.  That same touch of divinity — Grace — exists within each one of us, as well: God is present within us, animating us to do wonderful, holy things; guiding our steps as we try to walk justly and humbly in the ways of God; enlightening our vision with wisdom and selflessness to bring the justice and mercy of God to our world.  The challenge of discipleship is to allow the Grace of God within us to “transfigure” despair into hope, sadness into joy, anguish into healing, estrangement into community.    *****
Homily Notes
1. This gospel challenges all the easy reductions that we make about Jesus: Jesus the inspiring teacher, Jesus the compassionate preacher, Jesus the friend of the poor. He is all these, but he is also the One who comes from the Father, the One who, we believe, was prepared for by the prophets, the One who stands at the centre of history. The transfiguration calls us to expand our religious horizons.
2.  But the story has a curious comic element: the Lord of history is transfigured with these earlier prophets each side of him, and Peter wants to set up a campsite! This shows the intimacy with which the human and the divine are present in Jesus: he is with his friends and interacts with them; he is present in the glory of God. All handy distinctions such as ‘high christology’ versus ‘low’, or ‘immanence’ versus ‘transcendence’ are seen as too tied down to the limits of our understanding by this scene: God is always greater, and what we can say about God is what we can see in Jesus.

3. Preaching must not try to ‘explain’ this scene, nor even to ‘expand’ upon it. Rather the scene calls for our minds and imag­inations to dwell on it and seek to make its ‘picture’ of the ad­vent of God our own. So give a bit of the background that the first audience would have known, and then let imagination seek greater depths.

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REFLECTIONS: 

1.    Connections: 
THE WORD:
In today’s Gospel, Peter, James and John witness the extraordinary transformation of Jesus that we know as the “transfiguration.”  Matthew’s account (which takes place six days after Jesus’ first prediction of his passion and his first instructions on the call to discipleship) is filled with images from the First Testament: the voice which repeats Isaiah’s “Servant” proclamation, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, the dazzling white garments of Jesus.  Matthew’s primary interest is the disciple’s reaction to the event: their awe at this spectacular vision will soon wither into fear at the deeper meaning of the transfiguration -- a meaning that they do not yet grasp.  As the disciples will later understand, the transfiguration is a powerful sign that the events ahead of them in Jerusalem are indeed the Father’s will. 

HOMILY POINTS:
To experience transfiguration is to realize that there exists within each of us the “divinity,” the love of God, that enables us to transforms our lives and the lives of those we love.  It is exactly that love — that “divinity” — that Peter, James and John behold in Jesus on the mount of the Transfiguration.  The power of that sacred presence shines through us, as well, even when we do not notice it or are unaware that God’s love is in our midst. 
Peter’s reaction to the Christ of the Transfiguration contrasts sharply with his reaction to the Christ of Good Friday:  While totally taken with the transfigured Christ in today’s Gospel, Peter will be too afraid to even acknowledge knowing the condemned Christ on Good Friday morning.  Lent calls us to descend Mount Tabor with Jesus and journey with him to Jerusalem to take up our cross with him, so that the divinity we see in the transfigured Jesus may become in us the Easter life of the Risen Christ.

 To become the person you once needed
When Sara became ill many years ago, bulimia was not yet a household world.  Filled with guilt at her uncontrollable behavior, she was taken to specialist after specialist until someone was able to identify the problem as something much more than teenage rebellion.  Slowly she fought her way back from the edge.  Sara was surrounded by many loving adults, but no one could understand why she was doing this to herself.  She didn't understand it either.  Sara fought her disease alone and managed to conquer it.
Now happily married, Sara read a story in her local newspaper about a new support group for those suffering from bulimia.  Although Sara had not suffered from its symptoms since she was a teenager, she was intrigued by the idea of a support group and went to the meeting.  It was a powerful experience.  The desperately ill young people there touched her heart.  While she felt unable to help them, she cared about them and continued attending the meetings.  Other than saying she had bulimia as a girl, Sara revealed little about herself at the meetings; she sat quietly and listened to the stories of others.
As she was about to leave one of the sessions, Sara was stopped by a painfully thin girl who thanked her for coming and told her how much it meant to know her.  The girl’s eyes filled with tears.  Sara responded with her usual graciousness, but was puzzled.  Sara could not recall ever speaking to this girl and did not even know her name.
As she drove home, Sara wondered how she could have forgotten something so important to someone else.  She was almost home when it dawned on her.
Her husband, who met her at the front door, was surprised to see that she had been crying.

“Sara, what's wrong?” he asked.
A smile broke through her tears.
“Harry, I've become the person I needed to meet,” she told him and walked into his arms.

[From My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.] 

The lesson of the Transfiguration is that there exists within each one of us the spirit of God to become the person God calls us to be.  It is the same spirit, that same “divinity,” that Peter, James and John behold in Jesus on the mount of the Transfiguration.  The power of that sacred presence shines through us, as well, even when we do not notice.  Like Sara, we are a blessing to others, simply by being who we are.  We become what Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls “agents of transfiguration”:  “God places us in the world as God's fellow workers -- agents of transfiguration.  We work with God so that injustice is transfigured into justice, so that there will be more compassion and caring, so that there will be more laughter and joy, so that there will be more togetherness in God’s world.” 

2.     Andrew Greeley 
Background:
 Were the same people in the Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem and in the crowds which demanded Jesus' execution a few days later. Perhaps some of the same people were at both events. More likely, however, they were two very different crowds. The former was made up of his followers and friends from Galilee, the latter from the wandering mobs that characterize any city on a big festival day.   
 Where were the followers of Jesus? With a few exceptions they were somewhere else. They knew they couldn't fight "city hall." They realized that the dream was over and that what they had feared all along would happen. The leaders would snatch Jesus secretly and put an end to his "good news" which they perceived as a threat to their power. What the realists among Jesus' followers had predicted all along had at last happened.   
 The best thing to do was to go to ground and hide till the trouble blew over. Jesus was wonderful all right, but what had he done for them lately.
Story:
 Once upon a time there was a basketball coach. When he came to his new school, they had not enjoyed a winning season for eight years. The media vultures naturally said he was a poor choice and pouted because no one had paid any attention to their recommendations. His first season the team broke even. The fans were unhappy. Maybe the media vultures were right. The next season, they ended up in second place in their conference. The vultures said that the team would have won if the coach had not made a lot of mistakes in key games.  
 Then for seven years in a row the team won their conference championship. The vultures continued to complain and the important alumni worried about how long the run could last. The following year the team finished in second place. The vultures went wild with glee. The coach was losing it. The next year was worse because the team was stricken with sickness, injuries and academic ineligibility; the coach had only one year left on his contract. .  
 The alumni were now whispering to the athletic director, get rid of the bum! What has he done for us lately. The athletic director agreed because he resented the coach’s popularity. They wanted to fire him on the spot. But the president of the school insisted that he be permitted to finish out his contract (Presidents sometimes have the odd notion that sports are not the only really important thing in a school.) The coach was booed at the early games as he tried to hold together a team of talented but inexperience freshmen. You know what happened then? They won the national championship and coach accented a ten million dollar contract at another university.
3.     Fr. James Gilhooley
A child saw a dust-covered book. He asked what it was. His father replied, "That's God's book - the Bible." The boy replied, "You better return it to God because nobody here reads it." If our Bible is in good shape, we are not.
The Transfiguration was among the very few exhilarating moments in the career of Jesus. His was hardly a cake walk. It was one tough existence. We have a nasty habit of confining His horror moments to His last days. That judgment comes from not reading the Gospels.

The Transfiguration is so familiar to all of us that it has lost its original bang. We have to take off our wraparound sun- glasses. The scales of over-exposure must be peeled from our eyes in order to take a fresh look.

Our Leader was finishing an eight month tour of one night stands in the provincial towns of Galilee. He was eating nothing but junk food at greasy spoons. He considered Himself lucky when He got it. He was sweltering in the 100 plus degree heat and freezing at night under the stars. He was not sleeping. He was staying one step ahead of the cops. His audiences were receiving Him coldly.

Shortly before this account opens, the Teacher had told the twelve of His approaching death. They went into a downer. They had thought the glory days were coming. They had visions of twenty year service and retirement as monsignors on pension, clergy discounts, work on their golf swing, etc. And now this announcement. Who needed it?
Then Jesus took them on a three day forced march southward from northern Palestine. He had to wear a no-nonsense face. He feared a mutiny or suspected they would slip away after dark. That they did not reveals the love that already bound the apostles to Him. For them Jesus was Teilhard's smile of God.

Exhausted, they wound up at Mount Tabor situated near Jesus' hometown of Nazareth. The mountain runs up about 1800 feet. It is almost a straight ascent. When I was there, tourist buses could not reach the top. One had to go up in an eight cylinder auto. Imagine the physical condition of Jesus. As a boy said to me, "Jesus was no wimp."

He loved mountain tops. They brought Him closer to His Father.
Christ elected Peter, James, and John to join Him. The other nine, left at the base camp, were happy they had not been drafted. They were looking for a shady tree, a cool breeze, and a stream to do laundry and chill red wine. They needled the three drafted ones with the message, "Tell us about it tomorrow, fellows."

Their clothes sticking to their skin, the four finally got to the top about 4 PM. They were running on empty. The apostles had one thought: sleep. Jesus chose to pray. As Peter climbed into his sleeping bag, he mumbled, "Everyone has his own idea of a good time." In the early AM hours, the mountain top exploded as though hit by a nuclear weapon. The apostles were basket cases. Their Employer, "was transfigured before their eyes." He had removed His disguise. This was no carpenter. This was God. This was His Big Bang.
When Jesus put on a show, it was not low budget. The Big Bang must have been something spectacular. He deserved Oscar, Tony, and Emmy awards for best show on a mountain top ever.

The apostles were witnessing Moses and Elijah passing on the torch to their Leader. The Father was saying to Christ's followers, "You have been brought up to listen to Moses, Elijah, and their peers. Up to this point, they were my advance men. But now it is my Son you will listen to. He is numero uno. Him I appoint as your new Commander in Chief."

Next day Peter, James, and John came down that mountain jumping from rock to rock with the agility of boys. They were on a high. Their Jesus had proved to be a big winner. Their arduous climb in the sauna heat had paid off.

Heaven for them now would be forever spelled h-o-m-e.

We move into the second week of Lent. And, if you are off to a good start, bravo. Like His apostles, the Teacher has much to tell you at the mountain top. If you have yet to begin the climb, you can play catch-up. Jesus will toss you a rope and pull you up.

Reflect on Elizabeth Vanek: "The Transfiguration is not just an indication of Christ's divinity; it also reveals our potential to become divine." We can achieve "deification." Blow the dust off your Bible. Don't allow it to be the least read best seller of all time. Be a Bible reader, says Kenneth Woodward, and not just a Bible owner.
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From Fr. Jude Botelho:

The first reading from the Book of Daniel gives us a vision of the Son of Man being presented to the 'one of great age'. Note that this is not a picture of the Son of Man descending to earth but of him being presented to God. We know that from the ecstatic experience of the transfiguration, the disciples will see their agonized Lord suffering on the hillside of Calvary. However, today the accent is not so much on Jesus' passion as on providing us with a clue to his identity. This divine revelation –related to the gospel reading in which Jesus' face shines like the sun and is clothed in dazzling white – shows that it is He who is to be glorified like the Son of man.

Another perspective of life
Life is full of ups and downs. One moment we gaze at God's glory, next we see him crucified. How often do we crave for visions and voices, but all we receive is shadows and silence. A transplant changes things all too drastically; a transplant is what truth is all about. In his transfiguration we get a glimpse of what life is, at times, and what it shall be. -A blind man was happily married to a very ugly girl who was a wonderful person. All went well until he received his eyesight due to a transplant. This transplant changed his opinion of his wife. He divorced her as her external appearance hid her inner beauty. Like the blind man, the disciples want to bask in the beauty of the glorious Christ dismissive of his Calvary ugliness to follow. But Jesus frustrates all their tent-building intentions and wants them to understand Him. Have we understood?
Francis Gonsalves in 'Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds'

The Sunday Gospel presents us with an impressive image of the glorified Christ. The story of the Transfiguration is concerned with the identity of Jesus. The few details that are given are highly significant. We are told that it happened on a mountain- in the bible the mountain is a place of divine manifestation. On the mountain Jesus is flanked by two of the most important figures of the Old Testament–Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets. Thus Jesus is seen as bringing the law and the prophets to fulfillment. In other words he is the Messiah. The cloud overshadowing them signifies the presence of God, who cannot be seen by human eyes. From the cloud comes the voice that declares something greater still about Jesus, namely that He is God's beloved Son. As for the event itself, its first and chief significance was for Jesus himself. It was meant to confirm him and his mission. But it also benefitted the apostles. In the transfigured Jesus they got a glimpse of the glory that was his as the Son of God. Together with their later experience of his resurrection, it confirmed them in the belief that Jesus was the Messiah, and the Son of God. What significance has the story for us? We too are journeying towards Jerusalem –the heavenly Jerusalem. And we too can have moments of transfiguration. In his love for us, God allows us to taste on earth the joys of the world to come. We too can hear the voice from heaven assuring us: "You are my beloved Son" or "You are my beloved Daughter!" So we are able to face the future with confidence.

Holding on to The Transfiguration experience
A poor man living in a Dublin hostel was walking along a street in Dublin. At a certain point he found himself outside a Church. Before he realized it he was inside. He could not recollect whether or not he had said any prayers, but his soul was flooded with light. His depression lifted and a great peace descended on him. He felt that he belonged to this earth after all. He felt close to God and loved by God. The experience seemed to last for a long time, yet he had a feeling it lasted only a few minutes. But he said he'd gladly give the whole of his life for those few moments. What made the experience so wonderful was the realization that he had done nothing to deserve it. It was a pure gift from God to him. For one short moment he tasted glory. However, when it was over he found himself out in the streets once more, going along aimlessly as before. The effects of that experience faded. Though he went many times afterwards to the church, he never was able to recapture that moment. That homeless man wanted to hold on to that experience. He wanted to go backwards instead of forwards. He might have used the experience to illuminate the darkness of his life, and to go forward more hopefully and courageously. Peter made the same mistake. He wanted to stay on the mountaintop. He did not want to go back to everyday life. But Jesus summoned him to go back down the mountain and face the future. We too are called to go down the mountain and face daily life.
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'

God's gift to his apostles and us –The Transfiguration
William Bennett in his 'Book of Virtues' repeats an old Jewish folk tale about two na├»ve city boys who had never seen a farm. One day they decided to wander into the country. There they saw a farmer plowing. They said to each other this man must be insane to be tearing up a beautiful green field. Then they saw him sowing seed, an act which also mystified them especially when the farmer next covered over the seed as if burying it. Laughing at the farmer’s foolish actions, they returned to the city. Later they went once again to the country. Now they admired the standing crop of wheat in the farmer's field, but to their amazement they saw him cutting down the stalks. This was too much for them. They went home where they opened a loaf of bread to make sandwiches, with no understanding of how the bread came to be. These boys were amazingly simplistic, but with all our technical knowledge today, we understand very little of the workings of God's world. There are great mysteries in the universe. Today we celebrate one of God's great mysteries, which we call the Paschal mystery, the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. The Transfiguration of Jesus was a gift to the apostles to prepare them for the ordeal of Jesus' death. It was meant to strengthen their faith on that day of trial, so that remembering Jesus' glory on the mountain they could endure his death with the hope of his resurrection.
Charles Miller in 'Sunday Preaching'

Transfiguration or Transformation?
With the monsoons irrigating India, it is lovely to see large tracts of land bedecked with the lush green of paddy fields. Paddy shoots are transplanted to ensure a bountiful harvest. But transplantation is not limited to nature only; human beings too undergo transplants. Early in 2006, French woman Isabelle Dinoire became the first woman to undergo a face transplant. Being badly mauled by a dog, she received a new nose, lips and chin from a brain-dead donor. Commenting on the accident and the transplant, Isabelle told pressmen. "My life has changed completely!"
Francis Gonsalves in 'Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds'

Transformed by love
In the year 1464 a sculptor named Agostino di Duccio began working on a huge piece of flawed marble. Intending to produce a magnificent sculpture of an Old Testament prophet for a Cathedral in Florence, Italy, he labored for two years and then stopped. In 1476 Antonio Rosselino started to work on the same piece of marble and in time he abandoned it also. In 1501 a 26-year-old sculptor named Michelangelo was offered a considerable sum of money to produce something worthwhile from that enormous block of marble called 'the giant.' As he began his work he saw a major flaw near the bottom that had stymied other sculptors, including, it is said, Leonardo da Vinci. He decided to turn that part of the stone into a broken tree stump that would support the right leg. The rest he worked on for four years until he had produced the incomparable 'David'. Today the seventeen-foot-tall statue stands on display at the Academia Gallery in Florence where people come from around the world to view it. More than a masterpiece, it is one of the greatest works of art ever produced. How did he do it? Here is the answer in his own words: "In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to other eyes as mine see it." Said in more colloquial terms, "I cut away everything that didn't look like David."
Johnson V. in 'Liturgy and Life'

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From Sermons.com


A brilliant magician was performing on an ocean liner. But every time he did a trick, the Captain's parrot would yell, "It's a trick. He's a phony. That's not magic." Then one evening during a storm, the ship sank while the magician was performing. The parrot and the magician ended up in the same lifeboat. For several days they just glared at each other, neither saying a word to the other. Finally the parrot said, "OK, I give up. What did you do with the ship?"
The parrot couldn't explain that last trick! It was too much to comprehend, even for a smart parrot. Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." Scholars over the years have tried to explain what in the world Peter meant by this suggestion. But, I think trying to find meaning to these words is pointless. It's simply the way Matthew explains: Peter was frightened and he just said the first thing that came to into his head. He simply could not comprehend what was happening.
In life, moments occur that are incomprehensible. The birth of one's own child is one of those moments. The loss of a loved one is one of those moments. September 11 was one of those moments. There are mountaintop and valley moments throughout life. We are never ready for them. They arrive unannounced changing us in irreversible ways. But there is one thing they all have in common. They demand that we be silent and listen. These moments have something to say to us, to teach us.
But too often our response is like that of Peter, babbling absurdities because we cannot understand the significant, the meaningful moment...
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When parents are trying to teach their very young children basic social skills one of the first big lessons is "Use your words." Instead of grabbing, hitting, screaming, or crying, we teach our children to communicate their needs and desires through the use of words. Instead of snatching a toy away from another child we teach our kids to say "May I please play with that for a while?" Instead of screaming and throwing a tantrum, we teach our children to say, "I'm really mad," or "He was mean to me," or "She hit me!"  
The power of our voices, the power of words, is the first power we want our children to tap into. Verbal communication is uniquely human and is a uniquely empowering gift. 
Despite all the image-based advances in technology, "The Voice" is still the driving force in electronic developments. Voice power is still the ultimate power. Every new, successful emerging technology - for the past seventy-five years -- knows that voice power means market power.  
Remember RCA? RCA famously advertised its first record player, the "Victrola," by showing the family dog with its head cocked in curiosity as it listened to a record player. The advertising tag line was, "His Master's Voice."  
The "next best thing" in the past few years has almost always been a voice-based development. We now all routinely talk to our cars...
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Nowadays the cost of a dinner and a movie keeps going up, and a vacation can be especially expensive, but if I really want to go somewhere I just take the change out of my pocket and lay it on the desk. It's like a time machine. Each coin has a year stamped on it, and just thinking about the year helps me travel back in my memory.  
1979 is the year my first son was born and the year I started in ministry. 1981 and 1983 are the years my daughter and second son were born. 1988 is the last time the Dodgers won the pennant. 1990 was when I moved to Indiana from Los Angeles. 1994 and 2004 were the years I turned forty and fifty. 2002 was when I moved to Pennsylvania. And it's getting harder to find, but any coin with 1954 is my birth year.  
I enjoy laying out the change in my pocket and just glancing at the dates. It's nice to carry these little reminders of important events, good and bad. But they're just one kind of reminder. We carry all sorts of reminders around. One of the most obvious is our date book, which we use to remind us of important events that are not in the past but in the future. We especially need a reminder for Ash Wednesday. It comes in the middle of nowhere. It's not like Christ­mas or Independence Day that fall on the same dates every year. Ash Wednesday is all over the map, from early February to some­time in March. What usually happens is that we notice someone with a smudge on their forehead and suddenly realize: was that today? Really, it's not very convenient. The least Ash Wednesday could do is fall on a Sunday.  
It is an interruption. And it's an unwelcome reminder of an unpleasant fact. Dust we are and to dust we shall return. The grass withers and the flower fades.... 
IT WAS THERE ALL ALONG

 I remember a time when I had misplaced my good pen and I was looking for it everywhere. I looked in drawers. I looked under things, behind things and in things. I looked on the floor, but it was nowhere. And then I found it. I was holding it in my mouth the whole time.

That is the way that life often is. We miss things that have been there the whole time. It is like when I was in college and my wife was on campus the whole year, but I never really saw her. Then one day, I SAW her. She had been there the whole time, but one day I actually saw her in my world. And she has been in my world ever since.

That is the story of the Transfiguration. Jesus showed his disciples a part of the world that had been there all along, but it had not really been a part of their world. They were bewildered, astonished and trembling with fear when they saw and understood that heaven was already here in their world and that Jesus was the King of heaven.
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Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection: 


 1:  “Lord, give me the grace for transformation.”  
The word transfiguration means a change in form or appearance. Biologists call it metamorphosis (derived from the Greek word metamorphoomai used in Matthew’s Gospel), to describe the change that occurs when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. As children we might have curiously watched the process of the caterpillar turning into a chrysalis and then bursting into a beautiful Monarch butterfly.  Fr. Anthony De Mello tells the story of such a metamorphosis in the prayer life of an old man.  “I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change the world.’ As I approached middle age and realized that half of my life was gone without changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me; just my family and friends and I shall be satisfied.’  Now that I am old and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been.  My one prayer now is: ’Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’  If I had prayed for this right from the start, I should not have wasted my life.” 
2: Missing the point:  
Once upon a time, a man took his new hunting dog on a trial hunt. After a while, he managed to shoot a duck and it fell into the lake. The dog walked on the water, picked up the duck and brought it to his master. The man was stunned. He didn’t know what to think. He shot another duck and again it fell into the lake and, again, the dog walked on the water and brought it back to him. What a fantastic dog – he can walk on water and get nothing but his paws wet. The next day he asked his neighbor to go hunting with him so that he could show off his hunting dog, but he didn’t tell his neighbor anything about the dog’s ability to walk on water. As on the previous day, he shot a duck and it fell into the lake. The dog walked on the water and got it. His neighbor didn’t say a word. Several more ducks were shot that day and each time the dog walked over the water to retrieve them and each time the neighbor said nothing and neither did the owner of the dog. Finally, unable to contain himself any longer, the owner asked his neighbor, "Have you noticed anything strange, anything different about my dog?" "Yes," replied the neighbor, " come to think of it, I do. Your dog doesn’t know how to swim." The neighbor missed the point completely. He couldn’t see the wonder of a dog that could walk on water; he could only see that the dog didn’t do what other hunting dogs do to retrieve ducks – that is to swim. The disciple, Peter, was good at missing the point at the theophany of transfiguration as it is clear from his declaration: “ I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”   

3:  “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”  
There is a mysterious story in 2 Kings that can help us understand what is happening in the transfiguration. Israel is at war with Aram, and Elisha the man of God is using his prophetic powers to reveal the strategic plans of the Aramean army to the Israelites. At first the King of Aram thinks that one of his officers is playing the spy, but when he learns the truth he dispatches troops to go and capture Elisha who is residing in Dothan. The Aramean troops move in under cover of darkness and surround the city. In the morning Elisha’s servant is the first to discover that they are surrounded and fears for his master’s safety. He runs to Elisha and says, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” The prophet answers “Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” But who would believe that when the surrounding mountainside is covered with advancing enemy troops? So Elisha prays, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opens the servant's eyes, and he looks and sees the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:8-23). This vision was all that Elisha’s disciple needed to reassure him. At the end of the story, not only was the prophet of God safe but the invading army was totally humiliated. (Fr. Munacci)
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LK 9/: Mountain top



Many of us have had them, those times when we felt like we were on top of the world, really happy, confident that we knew all the answers, could solve any problem that came up. Or we felt that we were really close to God, really in tune with God's plan for us. In those moments we were excited and alive, and everything seemed new.

The moment might have come at some exciting event in your life: graduation, baptism, your first kiss, your first day on your first job, your wedding, the birth of a child, even catching your very first fish. It might have been something really spiritual, like a week at church camp or a church retreat. Or it might have been something of a smaller, quieter nature, like a very intimate conversation with your father or mother when you felt that they honestly understood what you were saying and why you felt the way you did.

We call these "mountaintop experiences," and oh how we hate to come down off that mountain! We want to hang on to that moment for as long as we can. "Let's just stay right here and let the rest of the world go by for a while." But to freeze that one moment in time shuts off the possibility of the next moment.

In the Gospel reading for today we hear the writer of Luke give his version of the event which we call "The Transfiguration of Jesus"... 



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     Sermon Opener - News Too Good to Tell



 
Did you hear the story about an inattentive, workaholic husband who suddenly decided to surprise his wife with a night to remember? He went down to the department store and bought her the expensive dress she had been admiring. He bought her a large bottle of perfume to go with it. He ordered tickets to the Broadway play she had been wanting to see and made reservations at their favorite restaurant. On his way home he stopped by the florist and bought two dozen red roses which he carried home under his arm. Upon arriving home, he exploded through the door, hugged his wife affectionately and told her what he had done. "I just want you to know that I love you; I appreciate you; I adore you."

Instead of melting in the man's arms his wife started screaming at the top of her voice. "This has been the worst day of my life," she said. "It was awful at the office. We lost our biggest account; co-workers were obnoxious; clients were unreasonable. I came home to find the kids had broken my favorite lamp; the baby sitter is quitting; and the water heater is out; and now surprise of surprises, my normally sober husband comes home drunk."

Perhaps all of us are a little circumspect about surprises. If things seem too good to be true, they usually are. We even feel that way about our religion. Methodists, particularly, like things done with decency and order. So when the Bible starts talking about a transfiguration with radiant faces and glowing garments and visitors from the dead, we become more than a little suspicious. What is going on here? Would somebody explain it to us so that we can get it into our scientific minds? All along the question remains: Are we willing to let ourselves be engulfed in mystery, inspired by glory, transformed by encounters of a divine kind? That's what the transfiguration of Jesus is all about. Come with me today and let us take a little closer look.

I. The Transfiguration of Our Lord Is a Call to Prayer
II. The Transfiguration Is an Experience of Wonder
III. The Transfiguration Is a Response of Silence


     Even the Darkness Can Dazzle


To lead our exodus, Jesus had to die like we do: alone, with no particular glory. Otherwise he would have been an anomaly instead of a messiah, and it would have been hard for us to see what he had in common with the rest of us.

As it was, he died very much like those who died on either side of him, one of them begging to be saved from what was coming, the other asking to be remembered when Jesus got where he was going. Jesus could not do anything for the one who wanted to be spared, but he did a great favor for the other. He told him that the darkness was a dazzling one, with paradise in it for both of them.

I think it was something he learned on the mountain, when light burst through all his seams and showed him what he was made of. It was something he never forgot. If we have been allowed to intrude on that moment, it is because someone thought we might need a dose of glory too, to get us through the night. Some people are lucky enough to witness it for themselves, although like Peter, James and John, very few of them will talk about it later.

What the rest of us have are stories like this one, and the chance to decide for ourselves whether we will believe what they tell us. It is a lot to believe: that God's lit-up life includes death, that there is no way around it but only through, that even the darkness can dazzle.

Barbara Brown Taylor, "Dazzling Darkness," article in the Christian Century, February 4-11, 1998, page 1-5

     You Can't Stay on the Mountain Top


A little boy was out in his front yard, throwing a ball up in the air. An elderly passerby asked the boy what he was doing. He replied, "I am playing a game of catch with God. I throw the ball up in the air and he throws it back."

I am in no position to comment on God's ability to play ball, but I do know that whatever goes up must come down. There may be exceptions, such as Charlie Brown's kite! But as a rule, whatever goes up must come down. The process is so predictable that you could refer to it as a scientific law. The same process applies to our religious lives. It is a good thing to "go up" to a great experience with God, but we will become greatly disillusioned if we do not remember that eventually we have to "come down" again.

John Thomas Randolph, The Best Gift, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.

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     Humor: It'll Come Back to You


This preacher moved to a new Church. This particular church didn't have a lawn mower so he was looking for someone to either mow the lawn or sell him a used lawnmower. One day he saw a young man going by pushing a lawnmower. So the preacher asked him, "Hey, looking for a job?" The young man said, "Sure." It turned out that he was mowing yards and trying to earn enough money to buy a bicycle. This preacher was kind of young and didn't mind mowing the yard so he told the young man, "Look, I've got a 10 speed bicycle that I never ride any more. What do you say we trade the bicycle for the lawnmower."

Well, the young man was ecstatic. They swapped and the young man took off on the bicycle. He rode around the block and came back to see the preacher standing in the same place wiping sweat off his brow. The preacher waved the boy over and said, "Hey, I've pulled on the rope a half a dozen times and this lawn mower just won't start."

The young man said, "Preacher, I hate to tell you this but it's a special kind of lawnmower. You have to cuss it to get it to start."

The preacher looked at him and said, "Well, I've been in the ministry so long I don't think I can remember how to cuss."

The young man grinned and said, "Pull on the rope some more and it'll come back to you."

The point is this, we ought not stay on the mountain top so long that we forget what it is like to be in the crowd. Like Peter, we shouldn't forget that our work is in the crowds.

Traditional


     Gladdening the Valleys Below

 
God never meant us to live on the mountaintop. I wish the gospel story told you the next Biblical story after the Transfiguration. This next Biblical story is never included in the lectionary series, and I feel badly about that. Because the next story is the key to the transfiguration story. The disciples and Jesus came off the mountain, and they came right down to the bottom of the valley. They came off the mountain and they came down into the valley and they found a boy who was having epileptic seizures. The mother and father were enormously upset and worried about the desperately sick boy, and the little boy fell into a fire and burned himself. In other words, the disciples came down off that mountaintop right into the problems of real life. Home from a mountaintop vacation and into the real world at home. And the disciples discovered that God is also down in the valley and does not live only or even primarily on the mountaintop.

I like the quotation by Henry Drummond, the Scottish theologian when he said, "God does not make the mountains in order to be inhabited. God does not make the mountaintops for us to live on the mountaintops. It is not God's desire that we live on the mountaintops. We only ascend to the heights to catch a broader vision of the earthly surroundings below. But we don't live there. We don't tarry there. The streams begin in the uplands, but these streams descend quickly to gladden the valleys below." The streams start in the mountaintops, but they come down to gladden the valleys below.

You and I experience the valleys of life. You and I both know what happens the next day coming down from the mountain. It is the real world and the real life. After Sundays of life, there are always Mondays. You know, the tough ones of life. God is with us there.

Edward F. Markquart, Mountains, Valleys, and Plains

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     Slow Down and Listen


Writer Charles Swindoll once found himself with too many commitments in too few days. He got nervous and tense about it. He was snapping at his wife and children, choking down his food at mealtimes, and feeling irritated every time there was an unexpected interruption in his day. He recalls in his book "Stress Fractures" that before long, things around their home started reflecting the pattern of his hurry-up life style. He said the situation was becoming unbearable. Then it happened.

After supper one evening his younger daughter, Colleen wanted to tell him something important that had happened to her at school that day. She began hurriedly, "Daddy, I wanna tell you somethin' and I'll tell you really fast."

Suddenly realizing her frustration, Swindoll answered, "Honey, you can tell me -- and you don't have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly." He has never forgotten her answer: "Then listen slowly."

I can hear God's voice saying to Peter, James, and John: "This is my Son, listen to him! Slow down. Don't be so quick to move things your way, to shape the world as you see it Peter. Don't be so quick to climb the corporate ladder, to join the rat pack and be number one John. Don't try to beat your colleagues to the first position James. Slow down. My Son is trying to show you another way, another world, another kingdom. If you will listen slowly.

Brett Blair, www.eSermons.com.

     Figuring Out The Transfiguration

Madeleine L'Engle, the great Christian writer, said we tend to avoid this story for the following reason, in her words:

The Christian holiday which is easiest for us is Christmas, because it touches on what is familiar. The story of the young man and woman who were turned away from the inn, and had a baby in a stable, surrounded by gentle animals, is one we have known always. I doubt if many two or three-year-olds are told at their mother's knee about the Transfiguration ... And so, because the story of Christmas is part of our folklore, we pay more attention to its recognizableness than to the fact that the tiny baby in the manger contained the power which created galaxies and set the stars in their courses.

She concludes by saying:

We are not taught much about the wilder aspects of Christianity. But these are what artists have wrestled with throughout the years.

William G. Carter, Praying for a Whole New World, CSS Publishing Company


     Keeping Alert 


In Luke's account, Jesus prayed but the disciples slept. They had fallen asleep. With their heads in the clouds, they drifted off into an unconscious state. Remember the story of Rip Van Winkle? He fell asleep one day in a quiet spot on the banks of the Hudson River and he didn't wake up for twenty years. When he went to sleep, the sign above his favorite tavern read: "King George III, King of England." He was a subject of the British crown. When he woke up, King George was replaced by George Washington and he was an American citizen. The tragic part was that he slept through a revolution. While he snored, oblivious to his surroundings, fantastic, earth-shaking events had taken place. This is what happened to the disciples. They were oblivious to all that was taking place. Don't be too critical of the disciples at this point. Many times we have our heads in the clouds, enclosed in our own little world and losing sight of the larger world, and sleep through great events. How many times are we preoccupied with our own self-importance? We become the prisoners of our own little world of trivialities. 

John A. Stroman, God's Downward Mobility, Lima, CSS Publishing

     Mountain Top Experiences 

Fred Craddock tells a wonderful story about a young minister, newly graduated from seminary, serving his very first church. He gets a call telling him that a church member, elderly woman who has just given her life to the church, is in the hospital. She's so weak she can't even get up out of bed, and the doctors don't hold much hope for her recovery. Would he go up and visit? Well, of course he will and he does.

All the way to the hospital he's thinking about what he will say to this Christian lady, what words of comfort he can give her to prepare her for her eminent death. He arrives at the hospital, goes up to her room for the visit. He sits and talks with her a few minutes, just small talk really, nothing earth shattering. When he makes ready to leave, he asks if she would like him to have prayer with her. She answers, "Yes, of course. That's why I wanted you to come."

He then asks politely, "And what exactly would you like me to pray for?"
"Why, I want you to pray that God will heal me," she answers in a surprised tone of voice.

Haltingly, fumbling over the words, he prays just as she wanted, that God will heal her, even though he's not really sure that can happen. When he says the "Amen" at the end of the prayer, the woman says....