Second Sunday of Lent

The transfiguration of Jesus is based in part on some schools of mysticism that believe that humans and animals can also change form. The word for transfiguration, (metamorphose) literally means to change form. Movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Harry Potter contain contemporary expressions of this understanding. In the Jewish tradition the righteous will take on a new heavenly form. It is not uncommon to encounter people who hope that their heavenly body will be significantly different from the one that they now have on earth. In the text here, Jesus is transfigured not in the sense of taking on a totally new form, but in the sense that the way he appears to the disciples is dramatically different.

The fact that Peter, James, and John are present and witness this event makes it an historical event, not one that takes place only in the spiritual world. Nor is it a vision or dream of some moment in the future when the fullness of God’s presence will be revealed. Jesus is the only one who is changed, and he is the only one who enters into a dialogue with Moses and Elijah. But the disciples are participants in the event as it unfolds. They witness and participate in what is taking place: they see the change in Jesus’ appearance, they recognize Elijah and Moses, Peter addresses Jesus, they are overshadowed by the cloud, and they hear the voice from heaven speaking to them. What is taking place occurs in such a way that they can experience it and participate in it. But it is only Jesus who is transformed and engaged in some kind of dialogue with Moses and Elijah.