The Transfiguration Yr.A Br Luke-2017

The Blue Mountains Franciscan Church, Sermon preached at Springwood by Br Luke on Sunday 26 February 2017

The Transfiguration

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There are, in my view, 5 High Holy days in the Christian faith.  These are days that we should mark as particularly important in our understanding of the faith we profess.  In case you are wondering. No wait maybe, I should get you to tell me what they are. No, no, it’s alright I was just joking, but gee, didn’t I make you all squirm.  The days are: Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Day, Pentecost and, yes, the Transfiguration.

 

Why are these the ones I chose? Because (apart from Pentecost), they are all very significant events in the life of Jesus.  Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter are all well-known and understood, but perhaps Transfiguration is not so well known.

 

Listen again to what St Matthew writes:

“And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.”

And:

“While he (Peter) was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’

 

Why is this important? In the New Bible Commentary 21st Century Edition, D. Carson notes that this passage is important for three reasons:

One: Jesus’ changed appearance shows that he is not just God’s spokesman, he is not like the other prophets.”

Two, Jesus is linked to Moses and Elijah.

Three: “as at Jesus’ baptism (3:17), God himself affirms Jesus as his Son. If that is so, his disciples must listen to him” [1]

 

In his commentary on this passage of St Matthew’s Gospel, Donald Hagner writing in the World Biblical Commentary says:

“The present-day church needs once again to discover the absolute authority of the teaching of Jesus. Jesus, as our passage shows, stands in continuity with the revelation of the OT, symbolized by Moses and Elijah, but because of who he is and what he brings (i.e., the kingdom of God, the climax of salvation history), his utterances have a final and incomparable authority. The transfiguration dramatically underlines that fact.”[2]

 

So the Transfiguration links Jesus to the Old Testament, it provides the foundation for Jesus divinity, and directs us to listen and hence follow the authoritative teachings of Jesus.  And this brings me to Francis.

 

As we know, St Francis had an intense, all-encompassing, devotion to Jesus.  I believe that this devotion was profound, it was far, far deeper than most people today understand or give credence to.  Francis wanted to feel the love that Christ had.

 

He wanted to be physically fused with Christ’s body.  No, I don’t mean he wanted to be Christ.  That would be blasphemy and Francis would never have gone there.  Francis was a physical, practical, hands on type of person.  “Go rebuild my Church” Jesus told him.  So, he did, literally, stone by stone. So is it any wonder he wanted to be united with his saviour.

 

We all know he was the ultimate party boy of his day.  But he was changed by his experience that day in the ruined church of San Damiano.  I think of this experience as Francis’ Transfiguration.  He became absorbed into the Christian message, and he was never the same.  He heard God speak, but he did more than hear.

 

He did what God told the disciples at the Transfiguration of Jesus, – he listened.  He listened, not with his ears, or his heads, but with his heart.  The words he heard became fused with his soul, they didn’t just guide his life, they became his life. And thus, he was transfigured.

 

 

This morning Sr Agnes, has taken vows of like profession.  These are also known as final vows.  They are the traditional end of a formal period of formation.  They are indication that the person has formed their life according to the teachings of Christ and in line with the traditions of the religious community the person has joined. They are more than an end though.  They are, I believe, the start of a new expression of the Christian gospel, and its salvific message.

 

Sr Agnes has solemnly promised to try and emulate the Italian saint, who is still speaking loudly, clearly and passionately to us across the centuries.  He bids, nay he urges us, to follow him.  To reach out to those who are lost, those who hurt, those you are the neediest in our community.  To enfold them with his compassion, his understanding, with his love.  To allow Jesus to transfigure our lives.

 

Make no mistake, this is not an easy task.  Sr Agnes has taken on a commitment which will require utmost dedication, diligent passion and patient tolerance.  She will be sorely tested and will at times find the journey an immense struggle – we all do.

 

But if Francis taught us nothing else, he taught us that the way we succeed, is to go deeper into the mystery that is Christ.  To embrace a companionship that defies explanation, a relationship that transcends any of the failings we, or the world, may have.

 

I have said it before and I’ll repeat again this morning.  At its core, the Christian faith is a mystery. A mystery that we glimpse when we contemplate the transfiguration of Christ.  This event gives us a means to get closer to the Divine.  It is such a profoundly important event, because when we let the words spoken on that day, transfigure us, we will feel, in the core of our being, what I believe Francis felt, the essence of life – the living, beating, heart of Christ.

 

Amen.


[1]Carson, D. A.: New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA : Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, S. Mt 17:1

[2] Hagner, Donald A.: Word Biblical Commentary  : Matthew 14-28. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 33B), S. 495

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