Last Epiphany, Year A: Shining Lamps

SUNDAY’S READINGS | Feb. 19, 2023

Ex. 24:12-18
Ps. 2 or 99
2 Pet. 1:16-21
Matt. 17:1-9

In the last weeks of the seasons following Pentecost, we have met the image of “light.” We meet it again today in its most intense representation: Jesus transfigured on the holy mountain. And while his Transfiguration anticipates our own as we are “being changed into his likeness from glory to glory,” the blazing glory of Jesus on the holy mountain is given especially to strengthen us “to bear our cross” in union with him (the collect). “In the world you face persecution, but take courage,” Jesus says. “I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). A more comprehensive translation would be: “In the world you face oppression, affliction, and suffering, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

The victory of Jesus Christ is announced preeminently in his resurrection, but anticipated as he stands upon the holy mountain with Peter, James, and John. Three of his closest disciples, his intimate friends, are with him, as are we, at this moment. They see that “he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white” (Matt. 17:1-9). It is precisely this vision that opens before us if we have eyes that see with faith and love.

Jesus speaks to us just as God once spoke to Moses: “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there” (Ex. 24:12). As we wait, we see “Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus.” And so we realize that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and commandments and all their instruction given to Moses. He is no less than the fulfillment of everything spoken by the prophets, represented by Elijah. Finally, we know that Jesus is all in all because Moses and Elijah vanish. “We [see] no one except Jesus himself alone” (Matt. 17:8). Although this is an astounding claim, we behold Jesus shining with the glory of God, presented to our mind’s eye as the fulfillment of every human hope. This vision will strengthen us as we meet the days ahead, the demands and sufferings of duty, and the obligations of love.

The disciples see Jesus and Moses and Elijah enveloped in a cloud and hear a voice from heaven: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” They fall upon their faces in holy fear. In truth, they are overwhelmed by love, by light, by a heavenly voice, and moved to behold Jesus alone.

St. Peter gives his account of the event. When he says, “We ourselves heard his voice,” we cannot but think of the Church that gathers in his name to hear his Word and to celebrate his mysteries. “[W]e made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we have been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard the voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Pet. 1:16-18).

The unimaginable and transcendent light of Jesus Christ emanates from us. By his light, we are the light of the world. Like Peter, “we have the prophetic message confirmed. [We] will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in [our] hearts” (2 Pet. 1:19). The light we await is already here, in our heart, in our holy faith, in our good works.

The cross will come, yet nothing can separate us from the light and love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Look It Up: The collect of the week

Think About It: We are changed into his likeness from glory to glory.


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