The prophet Daniel describes his vision of one like the Son of Man who received dominion from God.
A song of praise to God our King
2 Peter 1:16-19
Peter says that the voice heard from heaven confirmed the truth of his testimony about Christ.
Jesus is transfigured on the mountain in the presence of Peter, James, and John.
Background on the Gospel Reading
On August 6, our liturgy invites us to celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. This year, the feast falls on a Sunday. Our Gospel for this liturgy in Cycle B is the same as the Gospel proclaimed on the second Sunday of Lent. Recall that on the second Sunday of Lent in each Lectionary cycle the Gospel reading proclaims the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration, each time from a different Gospel. This feast calls to our attention the importance of this event in Jesus’ life, further affirmed by its report in each of the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
In Cycle B, our Gospel for this day is taken from the Gospel of Mark. The context for Mark’s Transfiguration story is similar to that found in both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel. The Transfiguration occurs after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus’ prediction about his passion. In each of these Gospels, a discussion of the cost of discipleship follows the Transfiguration.
In each Gospel, Jesus takes three of his disciples—Peter, James, and John—to a high mountain. While they are there, Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus. In Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospel, there is reference to a conversation among Jesus, Elijah, and Moses, but only Luke’s Gospel includes the detail that this conversation is about what Jesus will accomplish in Jerusalem.
Elijah and Moses are both significant figures in the history of Israel. Moses led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and received from Yahweh the Ten Commandments. Appearing with Jesus at his Transfiguration, Moses represents the Law, which guides the lives of the Jewish people. Elijah is remembered as one of the most important prophets of Israel who helped the Israelites stay faithful to Yahweh. Some believe that Elijah’s return would signal the coming of the Messiah for the Jewish people. This belief is evidenced in the question posed by Jesus’ disciples after they have witnessed the Transfiguration. The appearance of these two important figures from Israel’s history indicates Jesus’ continuity with the Law and the prophets. They also reveal that Jesus is the fulfillment of all that was promised to the people of Israel.
Upon seeing Jesus with Elijah and Moses and having witnessed his Transfiguration, Peter offered to construct three tents for them. Mark’s Gospel reports that the disciples were terrified by what they had witnessed and that Peter’s offer was made in confusion. We also notice that Peter reverted from his earlier confession that Jesus is the Messiah, calling Jesus “rabbi” instead. As if in reply to Peter’s confusion, a voice from heaven spoke, affirming Jesus as God’s Son and commanding the disciples to obey him. This voice from heaven recalls the voice that was heard at Jesus’ baptism.
In his Transfiguration, we see an anticipation of the glory of Jesus’ Resurrection. In each of the reports of the Transfiguration, Jesus instructed the disciples to keep secret what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. The disciples’ confusion continued as they wondered what Jesus meant by “rising from the dead.” Until they also witness his passion and death, the disciples cannot possibly understand Jesus’ Transfiguration. We, however, have the benefit of hindsight. In our hearing of it, we see in this event an anticipation of Jesus’ Resurrection, a foreshadowing of Christ’s glory in heaven, and the promise of our own resurrection.