In Matthew’s Gospel, the Transfiguration of Jesus is a lesson in faith. Jesus performs most of His miracles for the benefit of others. The healings, the raising of the deceased, and other wonders were gifts that brought people to right faith.
When Matthew recounts the Transfiguration of Jesus, he puts it among the events that mark the growing faith of the Apostles. Shortly before the Transfiguration, Pharisees and Sadducees, who were demanding a sign of His authority, confronted Jesus. Our Lord refuses to comply but urges them to look more deeply at His ministry. There, in His words and actions, people will see the sign they seek.
After that confrontation, St. Peter offers his dramatic profession of faith. His words stand in stark contrast to the challenge of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Peter’s faith had grown so strong that he could take Jesus at His word. Just like Peter, James and John’s faith had also grown.
Matthew puts the Transfiguration right after that profession of faith. During the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John saw who Jesus was on the inside—the Glorious Son of God. Moreover, they saw Jesus in the same way that the Father sees Him. Jesus shares the Father’s glory and is the Eternal Word. Moses and Elijah not only treasured the Word of God, they also were inspired by it.
Throughout Matthew’s Gospel, faith is either something that continues to grow, or else it withers and dies. The results of the Transfiguration are recorded in the Second Reading today. It was Peter’s act of faith that opened him to receive and understand the meaning of the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration of Jesus is the event that gave Peter the confidence to spread the message of Jesus.
Our lives are filled with experiences that we could describe as transfigurations: think of the birth of a child; honors coming from the hard work of getting an education; truly enjoying the benefits of good health. Our lives sometimes have difficult experiences that can also be transfigurations. For example, the loss of a job or the loss of a loved one or the pain of illness.
We are all called to be attentive to both types of experiences because the same glory shines through both of these real life situations if we but let it in, and in so doing we let Christ in at ever-deeper levels of our lives. And like Peter, James and John, our faith continues to grow.