MATTHEW 17:1-9

– Fr Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications, Macau

The account of the Transfiguration of Christ is a text of theology in a biblical language. Jesus, going up to the mountain has one such theological significance. The mountain, in the Bible is the site of the encounter with God. It was on the mountain that Moses had the manifestation of God and received the revelation that later was passed on to the people.

When Moses received the law, the mountain was enveloped by a cloud (Ex 24:15-16). He also came down with a shining face (Ex 39:29-35). Cloud and shining face are therefore a reflection of God’s presence. By creating a similar setting, the evangelist intends to present Jesus as the new Moses, as the one who delivers the new law to the new people. Jesus is the definitive revelation of God.

The voice from heaven “Jesus is the beloved,” the faithful servant on whom God is well pleased (Is 42:1) was already heard at baptism. Now an exhortation is added: “Listen to him.” Listen to him, even when he seems to propose too demanding paths, to indicate the narrow and steep ways, paradoxical and humanly absurd choices. 

In the Bible, the word “to listen” does not just mean “to hear” but is often equivalent to “to obey” (Ex  6:12, Mt 18:15-16). The recommendation that the Father gives to Peter, James, and John, and through them, to all the disciples, is “to put into practice” that what Jesus teaches. It is the invitation to focus one’s life on the proposal of the beatitude.

 Who are Moses and Elijah? The first is the one who gave the Law to his people; the other was considered the first of the prophets. For the Israelites, these two characters represented the Holy Scriptures.

 All the holy books of Israel are meant to lead to a dialogue with Jesus; they orient toward him. Without him, the Old Testament is incomprehensible. On the way to Emmaus, Jesus would resort to the Old Testament: “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them everything in the Scriptures concerning himself” (Lk 24:27).

Translated by Fr John Ledesma SDB
Abridged by Fr Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF