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A Vision of the Promised Land

‘Transfiguration’ is an odd word. It can mean simply a change in appearance. And that’s what we see in this weekend’s Gospel: Jesus’ fundamental nature doesn’t change—his exalted appearance merely reveals the divine nature that was always present.

However the word ‘transfiguration’ can also mean transformation—a real and substantial change. And all Christians should constantly pray and strive to be transfigured in this sense: to really change and become Christ-like. All of our readings this weekend invite us to reflect on the idea that we’re a ‘pilgrim people’. In the First Reading, God calls Abram to leave everything behind and seek the promised land. Ultimately, we’re all called to share a similar spiritual pilgrimage. On top of the mountain in today’s Gospel, Peter sees the transfigured Jesus with Moses and Elijah and he thinks he’s reached Heaven itself. Understandably, he wants to stay there. But Jesus literally brings him back down to earth. Peter, James and John have seen that Jesus is the fulfilment of all of God’s promises, but the journey isn’t finished yet. It leads through suffering and death—not only for Jesus, but for all who take up their crosses and follow after him. St. Paul urges us in the Second Reading to bear the hardship and persevere in the journey. Jesus has already given us a glimpse of what waits for us at the end of the road.

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