Feast of the Transfiguration: 06.08.23
10.15am – Holy Cross Church, Killeshin
The Feast of the Transfiguration falls today. It’s not a usual Sunday celebration, except when it falls on August 6th. And in many ways the Transfiguration happens every Sunday when we put our trust and faith in the Lord and allow God’s glory to fill the open wounds of our lives.
Mountains appear in scripture as places where the Holy One, the Divine is encountered. This morning it’s Tabor, last Sunday it was the Reek at Croagh Patrick. Both of them give us a glimpse of who God really is. A God who is never passive or uninvolved in our lives.
And so to Tabor and the Transfiguration, God’s voice resounds: “This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him”. He is still calling us to listen to Him this morning in Killeshin, in Graiguecullen, in Carlow. Sometimes we listen, often we don’t.
We begin by calling to mind the passiveness of our lives, the deafness in our world, the result of sin, and pray for forgiveness …
The Transfiguration event is so remote from our experience, there is a danger we could allow what happened there to play upon our own sense of proportionality and faith. Human nature has that eternal longing to see the Transfigured Jesus or to meet the Risen Jesus. Maybe that’s why some people feel they have experienced a vision or a locution.
If we were ever so privileged with such an encounter, we might believe our fragile faith would no longer feel challenged. To have touched the earthly Jesus, to be there for His miracles, to have heard first hand the parables would be an enormous bolster to our faith, or so it seems. Yet look at those who were there. Look at those who were closest to Jesus, the opposite seems to have been true.
The Transfiguration was witnessed by Peter, James and John. It is narrated in two different gospels, Matthew and Mark. An extraordinary experience that resulted in a deep sense of worship.
The three were on holy ground. Peter’s reaction is in vogue at the moment with his proposal to make tents: “Lord, it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”. The recent working document for the continental stage of the synod was titled ‘Enlarge the space of your tent’, taken from the Prophet Isaiah.
Pope Francis uses the image of tent, because the tent Isaiah speaks of was a cloth tent, cloth can stretch. A tent can be moved easily. There are pegs that hold the tent in position, they don’t change, there are fundamentals in Church and in our faith that won’t change, but they can be moved to a new location. Pope Francis’ other favourite image is that of a boat.
In recent days Pope Francis, speaking in Lisbon during the World Youth Day festivities said: “On the boat of the church, there has to be room for everyone: All the baptised are called on board to lower the nets, becoming personally involved in the preaching of the Gospel”. The boat like the tent can at times be stretched to increase capacity, although the image of over-filled migrant boats being washed are on the Mediterranean is one that unsettles all of us.
Pope Francis told yesterday’s gathering at Fatima “it’s precisely through our littleness that God accomplishes great things”. In our littleness none of us are going to experience Mount Tabor in our lifetime, but each time we respectfully receive the Eucharist, we are allowing the Lord in His splendour, in His glory to come under the roof of our tent. The third edition of the Roman Missal has that beautiful phrase: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”. The Irish translation even required less revision, because of the richness of its language: “A Thiarna, ní fiú mé go dtiocfá faoi mo dhíon, ach abairse an focal agus leigheasfar m’anam”.
The response to the disciples to what they saw was one of paralysing fear, they fell on their faces, and Matthew tells us “But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said, ‘do not be afraid’”. Those reassuring words are several times repeated in the gospels. May each one hear them as we experience the splendour and glory of God in Eucharist. The papal preacher, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, calls it “eucharistic amazement”. We don’t need to climb a mountain, just stop and realise who we are welcoming and receiving under the roof of our tent.
 Pope Francis, Vespers Address with Clergy & Religious at Jeronimos Monastery, WYD2023, Lisbon, August 2nd 2023
 Pope Francis, Message at Fatima, WYD2023, August 5th 2023
 The Roman Missal, Third ed., 2011