Transfiguration, Sunday Aug. 6, 2006

Homily — Transfiguration MMVI August 6, 2006

trransfiguration by Duccio di Buoninsegna

He was transfigured before them . . . . then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them.

In the Old Testament Book of Exodus, we read how the Lord delivered His People from oppression and slavery in Egypt. After the Ten Plagues and the Angel of Death, Pharaoh finally lets the Israelites go free. And so they began their journey: through the wilderness, and on to the Promised Land.

But the problem was, how do they get to the Promised Land from here? There was no super highway connecting the city of Raamses Egypt to the City of Jericho in Palestine. There were no Road Signs, no exit numbers, no AAA or map quest. And none of them had ever been there: all the Israelites had lived in Egypt since the famine brought Jacob and His sons there almost 200 years before the Exodus.

Because of this, the LORD gave His People two sure guides to bring them safely to their final destination: a column of cloud and a pillar of fire. Exodus says that when it was daytime, they were led by the column of cloud; and when it was nighttime, they were led by the pillar of fire. These two God-given guides led the Israelites safely through the barren and dangerous wilderness, all the way to the Promised Land.

On many occasions the cloud protected them from harm. And at the Red Sea, the pillar of fire actually struck at the advancing Egyptians and immobilized them, allowing the Israelites to get across the Red Sea before being overtaken.

Today in the Gospel, we the New People of God are shown our pillar of fire and column of cloud, which are to guide us through the wilderness of this life into the promised land of Heaven. The new Pillar of Fire is Our Lord Jesus, who appears today on Mount Tabor Transfigured in His Human Nature, shining brighter than the sun upon His disciples. But then the dark cloud covers Jesus, a cloud with the voice of God the Father. This is the new column of cloud that we are to follow: the cloud of faith in God’s Revealed Word, which cannot be seen or touched.

It is by the light of this Pillar of Fire, Jesus Christ, and by the darkness of this Column of Cloud, our Christian Faith, that we are to always walk in if we wish to reach the Promised Land of Eternal Life.

In the 2nd Reading, St. Peter is writing to the Christian faithful as his life is nearing its end. And Peter tells us to keep before us those two guides: the vision of Christ Transfigured, and the Revealed Word of God the Father, the Scriptures, which St. Peter calls the prophetic message we possess, which is altogether reliable. Not partly reliable, not un-reliable, but altogether, totally reliable, is the Word of God. Peter goes on to say God’s Word is the lamp we can use to walk by when it is dark, until the dawn appears.

And such is the pattern of our Christian life. At times Jesus will shine so bright in our lives, He will appear Transfigured to us within our hearts. The way will be clear and smooth sailing to the promised land. But then, the thick dark cloud comes, and we wonder where Jesus went. At these times especially, must keep following the cloud, keep walking according to the light of faith, according to Jesus’ teachings, according to the teachings of the Church.

For another passage at the end of the book of Exodus says that the cloud and the fire were really one entity: that when night came, the pillar of fire appeared inside the cloud. And Jesus, our pillar of fire, can also only be seen inside the dark cloud of faith. As the Psalmist says in today’s Psalm, Clouds and thick darkness surround Him. We will not see Jesus shine until we stop walking by the lights of this world and begin to walk only by the darkness of faith.

And this is the great challenge of the Christian life, to step out in faith, against the tide of those faith-less people around us who follow the ways of the world. The challenge to at times not see where God is leading us, not seeing how we’re going to handle what seems to be coming up the pike, but trusting nonetheless that God’s not leading us over a cliff or into an ambush. But if we are led by the cloud of faith, just as the Old Testament cloud shielded the Israelites from harm, so the cloud of faith shields us from harm if we remain under it. And, just as the Old Testament pillar of fire fought against and immobilized the Egyptians, so Jesus fights against and immobilizes our enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Jesus keeps those three adversaries from overtaking us.

My brothers and sisters, in a few moments Jesus will come to us in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Some of us today will see in the Host the Pillar of Fire: Jesus will be transfigured, will shine through bright and clear; and these peoples’ souls will be filled with light and sweetness and consolation as they receive Our Lord; But others of us today will see in the Host the Column of Dark Cloud: Jesus will be overshadowed, only God’s Words, This is my Body. . . . my Blood, will assure them. These people will need to struggle, to make a conscious act of faith that what looks like bread is Christ, that God is with them, as He promised, during the tough times they are going through.

Whether Jesus comes to us bright and shining or hidden and dark, may we follow Him with all our hearts, and may He transfigure us ever more into His likeness in this life, and bring us safely to that Promised Land at the end of our journey.

One Response to “Transfiguration, Sunday Aug. 6, 2006”

  1. Mike Dubois says:

    This is a great sermon…and it brings atttention to the Transfiguration and our Faith too.