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Last Sunday after the

Epiphany A
Transfiguration
Last Sunday After Epiphany
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Today is the last Sunday before Lent. Soon we will be reading about Jesus suffering and
death. The image of his glorious transfiguration is meant to remind us that Jesus life did
not end on the cross, but his mission was successfully accomplished with his resurrection
and a glorification
1. The first reading from Exodus is the beginning of a long story describing how Moses was
also transfigured when he met God on Mt Sinai.
. A bit of background: God had sent Moses to lead the Jews out of Egypt. Moses confronted Pharaoh,
and after Egypt was hit by the 10 plagues, Pharaoh allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt.
. Moses lead them through the Red sea to the wilderness of mount Sinai. The Israelites camped at the
foot of the mountain and Moses went up to the mountain top to receive Gods laws and make a
covenant with God on behalf of the people of Israel.
. He was gone for a long time: 40 days and 40 nights according to Exodus. Note that the number 40
in the Bible is not meant to be taken literally, 40 years or 40 day was an idiomatic expression
meaning a very long time.
. When Moses finally came down from the mountain, he found that, in his absence, the Israelites had
forgot about Yahweh, the God who has freed them from Egypt. They had build themselves a golden
calf and were worshiping it as their god.
. Moses was enraged, and smashed the tablets of the law. Then he rallied his tribe, the Levites,
destroyed the golden calf, and executed the leaders of the idolaters. Later he returned to the
mountain top, received a new set of the tablets of the law from God, and finally came back to the
camp.
. When Moses returned after his second meeting with God he had been transfigured. His face was so
radiant and shining that the Israelites were afraid to look at him. There were rays of light coming
from his face.
Last Sunday After Epiphany
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From that day on Moses had to wear a veil over his face when he was dealing with the people and
took it off only when he was conversing with God.
In the Hebrew Bible, God never appears to his people face to face. The Israelites were afraid that if
they ever saw the face of God they would die. They believed that Gods presence was manifested
by a luminous cloud. When they saw the cloud, they knew that God was with them The veil on
Moses face served the same purpose as the cloud: concealed something they were too fearful to
look at.
Moses leadership would not be challenged after his transfiguration and he led the Israelites through
the wilderness of Sinai for 40 years before settling in the promised land.
The main ideas about Moses transfiguration are that:
a. God is a spiritual reality that exists beyond the world of matter in which we live. God cannot be
seen and touched by our senses, but can be experienced.
b. Coming into contact with God is a transforming experience. The change is internal. The book of
Exodus tells us that even Moses appearance was changed to convey the idea that he had been
transformed by God.
2.The Gospel of Matthew uses the transfiguration to link Jesus to Moses and to Elijah by
bringing both Moses and Elijah in the picture as participants
.The Transfiguration story is reported in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke , right after Peter
recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and after Jesus predicted that he would be crucified.
.Let us look for a moment to the story itself, and note the similarities with the Exodus story:
a. Jesus went going up the mountain, like Moses had gone up the mountain
b. Jesus was transfigured and he shone brightly just as Moses did
c. When Moses came down the mountain he had to deal with the unbelief of the people, when Jesus
came down the mountain he had to face the unbelief of the crowds, and eventually was captured
and crucified.
Last Sunday After Epiphany
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Matthew uses the common elements in the story of the transfiguration of Jesus and Moses and to stress that
Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament, not disconnected from it . That was very important to his
audience that was made up of Christians Jews.
3. The main elements of the Hebrew Bible were the law and the prophets. Here we find that
a. Two representatives from the Old Testament are in conversation and pay homage to Jesus: Moses,
representing the law, and Elijah, representing the prophets. It is a way of saying that the whole Hebrew
Bible leads up to Jesus and prepares the way for Jesus
b. At the beginning of his ministry, when John baptized him in the Jordan, there was the same voice from God
stating that he was Gods son and that people should follow him. Here the disciples hear a voice
proclaiming that Jesus is the son of God and that they should listed to him.
c. Jesus mentions his death and resurrection . The reason for reading this episode before Lent is to remind us
that Jesus' death was not an accident but a part of Gods plan.
d. The memory of the Transfiguration was used in the early Church to counter Gnostic ideology that would
undermine Jesus' message and his moral teachings. The point of Jesus mission was not contemplation
(Gnostics) but action: Christians are called to help establish the kingdom of God.
.God is beyond the reach of our senses. But occasionally in our lives have an experience of God. We feel
the that God is touching and guiding our lives. These experiences of God dont last very long and soon
enough we go back to our material existence full of temptations and doubts. But they are meant to sustain
our faith, just like witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus would sustain the faith of the 3 disciples as they
saw Jesus passion and death.
.The Transfiguration reminds us that there is more that just the here and now, more that the physical world
that we can touch and see. God is invisible but is here among us. The kingdom of God started with Jesus,
and is present among us. Peter wanted to remain on the mountain to contemplate Jesus. Jesus told them to
get up because there was work to be done. Jesus invitation to get up is a reminder that we have the duty to
help establish the kingdom here and now, and not just wait for its fulfillment in the next life.
.We are called to to roll up our sleeves and work to transform society and bring the kingdom of God closer to
its fulfillment: we are Gods hands and feet. God changes the world through us.