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A Tale of Two Transfigurations

 

The word ‘transfiguration’ can mean two things that seem closely related but are actually quite different. According to one definition, it means simply “a sudden change in appearance, possibly to an exalted form”.

According to the other, it means “a transformation”—not just a change in appearance but also a real change of substance. Both definitions are significant in this weekend’s readings. In our Gospel Reading, Jesus is transfigured and stands revealed to Peter, James and John as the living fulfilment of all of the Covenant promises God made to his people in the Old Testament books of the Law (symbolised by Moses) and the Prophets (symbolised by Elijah). Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, all Christians now know that this was only a change of appearance. In substance, Jesus was, is and always will be the Word of God personified. However, apart from this one brief glimpse, even the people who knew Jesus best during his earthly life couldn’t see this spiritual reality clearly. In our Second Reading, however, St. Paul urges us to work for the other kind of transfiguration, the kind where we change more than our appearance and genuinely try to become as much like Jesus as possible in the way that we live and in the way that we love. We should ask ourselves: If someone could perceive the spiritual reality of who we are right now, how much of a resemblance to Christ would they be able to see?

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