The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord and Mass of Thanksgiving for Seminarians and Families at Saint Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax Station.
Transfiguration - Configuration - Witness:
I propose this three-fold dynamic as a synthesis of our reflection as we celebrate together the Feast of the Lord's Transfiguration.
. As we heard in today's Gospel passage, Jesus' appearance radically changed in this experience of transfiguration: “While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothes became dazzling white.” This event discloses His divine glory while simultaneously revealing the path He was to travel in order to reach His goal: by suffering the Passion - in order to enter into glory. Recall: “Moses and Elijah … spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” The “exodus” referred to His suffering, dying and rising from the dead. Recall too: Jesus was transfigured - transformed in appearance - “while praying.”
. To be configured means to be remade into the image of another. So, to be configured to Christ means to become more and more like Him, recreated, so to speak, in His image and likeness, to think, speak and act as Jesus would - of course, not perfectly, but more and more like unto Him. I remind us, the transformation in Jesus took place while He was praying. Our configuration to Christ takes place in a similar way: if we are open and willing to let Jesus transform us. This He does as we are with Him, listening to Him and responding to Him, not always in words, but in being with Him. This being with Him lies at the heart of prayer.
Moreover, what is unique is this: the word in Greek expressing a profound change in appearance occurs only twice in the New Testament: once in reference to Christ during His Transfiguration and the other in reference to Christ's Body the Church. The lesson becomes clear: just as the physical Body of Christ was changed radically or transfigured, so too must Christ's Body the Church. And you and I are members of Christ's Body, members of Her Church. Like Him, we too are to be changed - configured unto Christ.
. Peter, James and John were eyewitnesses of Christ's Transfiguration. They never forgot this experience. In fact, in today's second reading, there is a clear reference to this event: “… we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Moreover, they also heard God the Father's declaration: “This is My chosen Son, listen to Him” Recall what we just heard: “We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.” Moreover, Peter, James and John were witnesses to Christ by the way they lived their lives. So, configured to Christ, especially through the experience of prayer, we too must witness by how we live daily: loving God through prayer and worship, and loving others through Gospel charity.
This three-fold dynamic of Transfiguration, Configuration and Witness can also be summarized by the following phrase: “Become what you behold.” Gazing at Jesus in prayer, we do become like Him and then our witness confirms our being made more like Him.
This is true for every disciple of Jesus! How much more must it be true for men preparing to be Christ's Priests: men who will one day act in the Person of Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church!