The Turning Point: Transfiguration of the Lord
Emmanuel Sermons – Transfiguration Sunday
Sermon And Christian Act In The Word
Theme: My Turning Point is today! The Turning Point! The Transfiguration!
Point of Reflection: Do I have my turning point? The Feast of Transfiguration commemorates an event which marked a turning point in Jesus’ life and ministry. This theme of major change dominates today’s liturgy. Hence, as believers we can join the Psalmist in joyful acclamation singing, “the heavens proclaim God’s righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory”. As Christians, we need to find our turning point and Christ must be the centre of our turning point.
First Reading: Daniel 7:9–10, 13–14
Psalm: Psalm 97:1–2, 5–6, 9
Second Reading: 2 Peter 1:16–19
Gospel: Matthew 17:1–9
Sermon (Reflection): The story of the Transfiguration told in the three synoptic Gospels is largely parallel. It occurs at the same point in Jesus’ earthly life, that is right after Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi and Jesus’ first passion prediction. Confirmed as God’s Messiah by his disciples, Jesus began his journey towards Jerusalem to face the cross. The Transfiguration was the first major event on that journey. Therefore, together with Peter’s confession, the Transfiguration stands at the crossroads in Jesus’ life and at the turning point in his earthly ministry.
The Transfiguration introduces three major insights and developments into the story of Jesus. First, at the mountain of the Transfiguration, Jesus was revealed as a heavenly being. The radiance of his face, the transformation of his garments and the conversation with Moses and Elijah, the two key figures of the Old Testament, place him firmly in the supernatural world. While on earth and in the human body, Jesus was, at the same time, a heavenly being. The second insight comes as a result of Peter’s sincere but rather childish proposal to raise three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Peter’s mistake lay in placing Jesus on the same level as the two great leaders; he considered Jesus as one of them and intended to place them alongside one another. God himself intervened to correct the apostle’s mistake with a powerful proclamation that Jesus is more than a lawgiver or one of the prophets; he is God’s own son, the beloved one, to be listened to and followed because he truly represents God.
The third and final part of the story shows the disciples falling to the ground with fear, which is a sign of reverence reserved for God alone, thereby acknowledging Jesus as a divine person. With this act, Matthew signals that the disciples’ journey to the full understanding and acceptance of Jesus as the divine person had been completed. The story concluded with the descent from the mountain to continue the journey to Jerusalem and onto death. However, Jesus’ final words to the disciples reassure them that death will not be the end, as he alludes to the resurrection. This reminds us that we are Easter people and we have all of us to be Easter people and live as Easter people.
Transfiguration might have been a turning point in Jesus’ life as he began his journey towards death. But even more so, it was a turning point for the disciples as far as their understanding of Jesus in his purposes was concerned.
From now on they knew that Jesus, the divine person, was on a mission to confront death and overcome it through his resurrection.
Right from the first reading of today, we find the leading point into the theme of the turning point with a particularly important passage from the book of Daniel, thus, a vision of “one like a human being” (“one like the son of man) coming with the clouds of heaven. The book of Daniel was written in response to one of the greatest crises in the history of Israel, when King Antiochus Epiphanes forbade the practice of the Jewish faith and declared Jewish customs and lifestyle illegal. Resistance by some faithful Jews to these measures led to the greatest religious persecution in Israel’s history. The prophet Daniel, writing in this violent and turbulent time, sees a vision which assures him that a dramatic change in the fate of God’s afflicted people is about to occur; God will decisively intervene to defend and vindicate his people. Key to this dramatic reversal of fortunes will be the appearance of someone who resembles a human being. This mysterious figure will ride the clouds of heaven and approach God’s throne, to receive Authority and power from God’s hand. This was a prefiguration of the humanlike figure to come who is Christ, and the turning point is clearly seen in the Gospel of today.
The second reading of today which is from the second letter of Peter is considered the “youngest” book in the NT, dated to about 120 AD. Even though, by that time, Peter had been long dead, one of his followers wrote under his name,to remind the Christians about some essentials of their faith and practice which might have been forgotten in the decades after Jesus’ resurrection and the death of his apostles. One of these difficult issues was the delay in the return of Jesus to the Earth, the Parousia. This delay caused many to lose zeal, and even hope, that Christ would ever return. These doubts, in turn, resulted in laxity in faith and practice, and even led some to abandon Christianity altogether. In 2 Peter, the author, evoking the authority of the chief apostle, reassures his readers that Christ will return as a glorified Lord and judge of all. To prove his point, he recalls the Transfiguration which Peter, James and John personally witnessed.
These eyewitnesses testified that Jesus, while appearing as a human being, was God’s son, confirmed as such by the Father. Their experience was not an illusion or hallucination or a myth. Rather, it was a turning point in their lives as they were assured beyond any doubt that Jesus is God’s son. Recalling this experience for his readers, the author of 2 Peter aimed to confirm that Jesus’ coming into the world as God’s Son and Messiah was the turning point in the world’s history; through him, salvation and the offer of life eternal have arrived. By confirming Jesus’ Messianic mission through an appeal to credible eyewitnesses, the author also intended to exhort Christians to hold firm to their faith and make constant progress in virtue, following Jesus’ teaching.
Christian Act in Word of God “My Turning Point in Christ”
The fact is that turning points of life are those events in our personal history, and in the political, economic, social and Church life that change the course of history. These events come in different forms; some are tragic and frightening, others are exciting, surprising and joyful. Yet they all tend to be unexpected and life-changing. Turning points come about in response to life-changing events – great achievements or failures, blessings and tragedies, births and deaths, and many others. One constant feature of all these turning points is people’s capacity and responsibility to treat and use them as a new beginning. In the life of faith, like the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, we always have a choice to continue to walk with Jesus or turn away because the journey ahead looks too difficult.
On the social level, events change the destinies of countries, Churches, businesses and the world. One example of such an event was the dramatic resignation of Pope Benedict. Many thought that this would signal the demise of the Catholic Church. Yet, in retrospect, we see that it was the turning point in the Church’s history as it brought about the election of Pope Francis. This dramatic change brought a new era that has made the Catholic Church one of the most influential in modern times thanks to his extraordinary leadership.
Turning points at both personal and social levels are inevitable and will continue to happen. For Christians, however, the belief that God oversees their lives and world history is the basis of faith, even in the most difficult personal and social circumstances. Having faith in God does not prevent life-changing events from occurring. But, in the midst of these events, our faith encourages us to look beyond and see the presence of God with us at all times.
Today, there are some Christian leaders who mislead others by portraying obedience to God in terms of paying Church tithes as insurance that prevents misfortunes from happening. This is a harmful distortion because, when difficult and unfavourable events do happen, many lose faith and leave the faith or feel let down by God. This is an ever-present danger in our faith journey when we merely treat God as an insurance policy to shield us from changes and challenges. When something good happens we praise God, and when something difficult happens we believe God is not with us or is punishing us.
The feast of Transfiguration teaches us that God is always present irrespective of what happens in our lives and is working out a greater plan not only for us but for the world through us.
In trustful allegiance to him, we can face our own “transfigurations” in a manner that makes our lives more fruitful and better. Let us be transfigured and live as transfigured people.
Action: This week I will allow Christ to turn my life for the better and I will be transfigured.
Prayer: Almighty God, through Jesus Christ your Son may we be transfigured and find our turning point with the power of the Holy Spirit. May God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change but we have; courage to change the things we can so that we may be transformed people all time, through Christ we pray, Amen.