Homily for the Feast of Transfiguration of Our Lord/ Friday of the 18th Week in the Ordinary Time – Year B
Homily Theme: LISTEN TO HIM!
Personal encounter always pushes our faith beyond the level of belief to the level of knowledge /certainty. That is why the whole readings of today speak about one thing – the experience of the ancient of days both as he appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then to Moses and Elijah in the form of cloud and fire. The mega apostles were constrained to have the same theophanic experience at Mountain Tabor and so Peter now says in the second reading that ‘we are eyewitnesses of his majesty’. Our opening prayer today says it all : ‘O God, who in the glorious transfiguration of your Only Begotten Son confirmed the mysteries of faith by the witness of the Fathers and wonderfully prefigured our full adoption to sonship, grant we pray, to your servants, that listening to the voice of your beloved Son, we may merit to become coheirs with him’.
We are celebrating today the 4th mystery of light – the experience of personal encounter that enables every Christian to make what Soren Kierkegaard calls ‘the transcendental leap of faith’ or embrace a fundamental option for Christ through a daily devotion to the listening and obedience to God’s Word.
What did Jesus take the 3 apostles to the high mountain to see and why? The Shekinah glory of the vision of cloud, His garments turn white as light , the presence of Moses and Elijah and the Voice that said : ‘LISTEN TO HIM’. I think he just needed to let them understand what it means to become Church leaders and what it means to become Christians. According to Fr Anthony Akinwale, ‘The Church is a pilgrim Church. The people of God are always on the move. Pilgrims are also chosen to lead the people… The Church is not a Church of our own making. Not even the Bishops are land lords in the Church . We cannot give ourselves a ministry. The Church gives each one of us a ministry ‘. What happened on Mount Tabor was the explanation of the apostolic ministry to the mega apostles summarized in one command : ‘LISTEN TO HIM’.
Vatican II gave us 16 documents summarized in 4 words; Worship, Assembly, Listen and Mission. The Church as the assembly of God’s people, gathers to worship God, listen to his Words and finally go into the world with a mission to bear witness to the Word they have heard. That was why Peter’s request was not granted for them to stay in the contemplative state of Mount Tabor. They needed to climb down and go to another mountain – that of Calvary and then face the hard world of sin. According to Vima Dasan, ‘The destiny of every Christian is written on two mountains – the mountain of prayer (Tabor) and the mountain of suffering (Calvary)’. It was actually after the transfiguration of Christ that the apostles understood his real mission as a spiritual Messiah not a political one. At the transfiguration it was necessary for the voice of the Father, in the presence of the Old Testament fathers (Moses and Elijah) to announce Jesus as his beloved Son and enjoin us to listen constantly to his voice.
The command was simple : LISTEN and CHANGE. Fr Anthony Akinwale, Op. taught us in a retreat some years ago how to grow spiritually in the eloquence of silence. According to him, ‘the present day Church is wallowing under the epidemic of superficiality. We in Nigeria are facing two types of terrorism – the type that kills the body (eg Islamic terrorism) and the type that kills the mind (eg bad doctrine). The latter is even more potent ‘. We just need to listen more to Jesus. There must be God’s time in my life!
The consequence of listening is spiritual change. Change is the logic of life. According to Cardinal Newman : ‘To live is to change and to be holy is to have changed several times’.
So many churches today operate like phones without any memory card because they neither care to listen to what Christ really said and mearnt nor how the Fathers of the Church (like interlocutors) commented in between the dialogue. They just want to jump in from the raw scriptures and provide a 21st century interpretation. Many Church leaders today don’t know what to do in the midst of the present challenges we have in Nigeria in terms of security, danger of Islamization, Fulanization or whatever, just because the listening ear to the voice of the Holy Spirit is shut down by worldly distractions that may come sometimes in the form of church projects.
But the faith we profess today has apostolic foundations and that was why it was necessary at the transfiguration for the Old Testament fathers to come and bear witness to Christ as the new teacher par excellence. He is the ancient of days that never changeth. May God bless you today!
- Ben Agbo (Rev Fr.)