Sunday Sermon for August 6, 2023, the Feast of the Transfiguration, Year A

Readings: Dan 7:9-10, 13-14; 2 Pet 1:16-19; Mt 17:1-9

Today we break from the normal Sunday schedule of Masses to celebrate the Transfiguration of our Lord.  There are only a few feasts that take precedent over Sunday; those that replace a regular Sunday celebration of Mass must be related to our salvation.  So, we must begin our considerations by asking what the Transfiguration has to do with our salvation.

The Transfiguration is the only time in the life of our Lord that He allowed His divinity to be revealed.  Throughout the life of our Lord, His divinity was hidden behind His humanity.  Even on this occasion, only three of our Lord’s Apostles witnessed the events on Mount Tabor.  When everything was complete, Jesus told His Apostles to remain silent about what they had seen until He had risen from the dead. 

We know the Apostles did not understand when Jesus told them about the resurrection; consequently, there is no way they could have understood what they witnessed during the Transfiguration.  Without doubt the three chosen disciples were awestruck and, I think we can safely assume, they pondered the Transfiguration and all they saw and heard that day until Easter when they could finally begin to understand. 

It is only after many years had passed that St. Peter mentions the event in his second letter.  It appears, by the way St. Peter speaks of these events, that the faithful were familiar with the story of the Transfiguration.  St. Peter is quick to point out that while this was a profound occurrence, the divinely inspired Scriptures are far more reliable.  Of course, he was not aware that what he was writing at the time was also inspired, so we can rely on what St. Peter has written, but he was personally more focused on what he knew to be true more than on his own spiritual experience.

As we look to the Scriptures, we understand that the Transfiguration pointed beyond the resurrection to the truth that Jesus is the Son of Man described by the Prophet Daniel, the Son of Man Who is also the Judge of the living and the dead.  It is because of our Lord’s charity and humility in taking on our human nature that He presented before the throne of God and received dominion, glory, and kingship, as we see in the first reading. 

So, in this vision of the Prophet Daniel, we have the humanity of Christ being presented in Heaven.  In the Transfiguration we have the divinity of Christ being presented on earth.  This extraordinary revelation of our Lord’s divinity not only reveals the resurrection, but it points to the salvation of our race that comes only through the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  The revelation of the Son of Man shows us that Jesus is the Judge of all humanity.

We see in this a twofold consequence of the Incarnation.  First, because the Person endowed with a human nature is God, we can have a Savior and a Redeemer.  Second, because the Son of God has taken our human nature with Him into Heaven, He is able to judge humanity.  Obviously, God was always the Judge, but our human weakness may have tried to object that as God He doesn’t understand.  Being fully human, no one can say Jesus does not understand us.  His judgments are merciful because He knows our weakness, but His judgments are also honest and true because He is Truth itself.

The Saints have taught us over the years that the Transfiguration was to help the Apostles by strengthening their faith in Jesus so that when He was crucified, they could remain strong.  We know what happened to the Apostles during and after the Passion, so it was not merely for their sake that our Lord allowed a glimpse of His glory to be seen.  Instead, only after being able to reflect on our Lord’s Passion were the Apostles able to understand what they experienced and what our Lord’s words after the Transfiguration meant. 

If the Transfiguration was not just for the Apostles, then it was intended for all of us.  It gives evidence that Jesus is truly God, but it also provides hope for us because we participate in the divine nature which means in Heaven we will share in our Lord’s glory.  Just as our humanity allowed Jesus to be able to suffer and die (and to resurrect from the dead), so our participation in His divinity will allow us to not only rise from the dead, but to have life everlasting in the glory of Heaven. 

So, this feast deals directly with our salvation.  It reveals the means of our salvation and it provides hope to share in the fruit of that salvation: the life and glory of God radiating through our humanity for eternity.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit