28 About a week after he had said these things, Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up a hill to pray.
29 While he was praying, his face changed its appearance, and his clothes became dazzling white.
30 Suddenly two men were there talking with him. They were Moses and Elijah,
31 who appeared in heavenly glory and talked with Jesus about the way in which he would soon fulfil God’s purpose by dying in Jerusalem.
32 Peter and his companions were sound asleep, but they woke up and saw Jesus’ glory and the two men who were standing with him.
33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, how good it is that we are here! We will make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (He did not really know what he was saying.)
34 While he was still speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them with its shadow; and the disciples were afraid as the cloud came over them.
35 A voice said from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen – listen to him!”
36 When the voice stopped, there was Jesus all alone. The disciples kept quiet about all this, and told no one at that time anything they had seen.
Other readings: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Psalm 27:1, 7-9, 13-14; Philippians 3:17-4:1
Jesus chooses only his first three disciples – Peter, John and James – to climb a mountain with him for a prayer time. We don’t know how long Jesus prays but the disciples fall asleep. It appears that the disciples wake up just in time to witness the end of a remarkable encounter. Jesus’s clothes are now dazzling white and he is talking to Moses and Elijah.
The appearance of Moses and Elijah is significant. Moses led the exodus of God’s people out of slavery in Egypt and many Jews expected the prophet Elijah to return before the coming of the Messiah. They talk with Jesus about how he will soon fulfil God’s purpose through his death (or “exodus”, the literal meaning of Luke’s writing here) in Jerusalem. God’s salvation plan for mankind, bringing true and lasting deliverance, is being fulfilled in Jesus.
This experience may have strengthened Jesus for the testing days ahead that would culminate with his death on the cross. Luke makes no comment on this. What is clear is that God is present, as indicated by the cloud which veils his glory. As at Jesus’s baptism, God speaks. He affirms Jesus as his Son whom he has chosen. And this time God adds the instruction to the disciples to “listen to him”.
This event, together with the other miracles and teaching that surround it, gave the disciples glimpses of who Jesus was. But they needed to travel much further with Jesus. In fact, they needed to meet him after the Resurrection to really understand who he was and his mission on earth.
Imagine you were one of the disciples that witnessed this event. How might you have felt? What would you have learnt? What has Jesus been chosen for? In what way does his death in Jerusalem fulfil God’s purpose? In what ways can we “listen to him” as God told the disciples to do? What is your experience of prayer? Do you find it as easy to listen to God as to talk to him?
Thank God for the words from today’s responsorial Psalm, “The Lord is my light and my salvation”. Thank God each day this week for all the ways he has guided and saved you. Ask him to deepen your appreciation of his salvation for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to overshadow you, to transform your life so that people around you notice something different about the way you live. Ask God to help you reflect more of Jesus to others.
Consider the glory of Jesus’s transfigured body. For Christians, Paul offers us a tremendous promise, “He will change our weak mortal bodies and make them like his own glorious body…” (Philippians 3:21). Consider what it means that we are now “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20).
Lectio Divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word. These outlines for the Sunday Gospel readings are published by the Bible Society. Download at Biblesociety.org.uk/lectio. © 2008 United Bible Societies. Bible text Good News Translation, second edition © 1992 American Bible Society, New York