Transfiguration of our Lord



BY: Benedict Agbo (Rev Fr).

* Gen 12: 1 – 4, 2 Tim 1: 8 – 10, Matt 17: 1 – 9.

The call for change is the backbone of every religion especially the Judeo – Christian faith. The story began with the call of Abraham to leave the ‘old man of sin’ – Abram (as Fr Stephen Njoku used to call it) and take up the ‘new man of righteousness’ – Abraham. My 1st question is: ‘What did he and we have to leave?’
(a) His Country – His old culture of sin, especially idolatry.
(b) His Family – Hereditary traits, eg anger, lust, pride and vanity. He had this little tendency towards lying, Gen 20 which played out also in his forebears, Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Gen 27.
(c) His father’s house – His possessions. He had to concede the choicest of the lands to Lot his kinsman.
He left all these for the unknown place: ‘The land that I will show you’, relying on God’s promise: ‘I will bless you… and by you all families of the earth shall bless themselves’.
Abraham set us the 1st example of leaving behind the present gains ( ‘ebeano’) to look for the future ( ‘ebeaneje’). That is the summary of our faith. He taught us how to leave the present condition of our sinful environment to move towards holiness according to God’s leading. He gained both the prosperity of heaven and earth and has remained our paradigm and great ancestor of faith.

The 2nd question is: Why and how do we have to leave the present for the unseen future?
(a) The 2nd reading of today says we have to make this move relying on the power of God who has saved us. The scriptures have always put one aspect of our salvation in the past perfect tense – redemption, 2 Tim 1: 8 – 10, Col 2: 13. Other aspects; repentance and regeneration are still in the present and future tense.
(c) The gospel presents us a glimpse of heaven as our principal motif for this change. Here, the theophanic experience of Old Testament law (represented by the picture of Moses and Mount Sinai ) and the Prophets (represented by the picture of Elijah and Mount Horeb) had to give way for that of Tabor represented by Jesus at the Mountain of transfiguration and transmogrification.

Change is the elixir of life. Every country, every nation is always in search of a change. That’s why Nigerians quickly fell for the proposal of President Buhari, 6 years ago as the promised ‘Change Messiah’. America also went for Donald Trump all in their quest for a change few years ago. But whether we and they have succeeded in having the desired change is topic for another day. According to John Cardinal Newman, ‘Change is the logic of life. To live is to change and to be holy is to have changed often’. We can’t make any progress in the spiritual life without the effort to change.
Satan’s greatest tools against man’s journey to holiness is to plant vices that make us remain animalistic and devilish; hatred, anger, jealousy, lying, pride, lust, discouragement, etc. Thus making our struggle for holiness fruitless. His highest tag is on discouragement. That is why the 2nd reading wants us not to lose hope on being holy but to continue to rely on the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In today’s gospel, Jesus demonstrates his change mantra in a most practical and dramatic event. He led them up ‘a high mountain apart’ (separation from the busy world) and was transfigured (‘mgbanwe’ – face and garments became white as light (a picture of the heavenly bliss where we shall shine in holiness and righteousness).
The picture of Moses, Elijah and Jesus are symbolic – 3 men who fasted 40 days and nights; 3 men who fought the highest occultic powers of their time and defeated them; 3 men who defiled death by their mysterious ending (Moses’ grave was no where to be found, Deut 34: 7, Elijah ascended into heaven, 2 kg 2: 1-13, Jesus rose from the dead and also ascended into heaven), Lk 24: 1 – 53.
But the climatic point of the revelation is the announcement of the voice from the cloud: ‘This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’. That was the big difference! The rest were prophets who tried to please God in their imperfections but here comes the Son of God – the wounded Messiah who satisfied God by complete obedience. He alone can now teach us perfectly how to be holy! Yes the ringing tones of the Old Testament prophets were now united in one harmonious new tone at Mount Tabor singing a new ‘change mantra ‘ – ‘Listen to Jesus Christ!’.


Our human nature is our greatest obstacle to change. The fixations of our old temperaments make us;
(i) Choleric – full of pride and ambition, (ii) Sanguine – full of noisiness and impulsiveness,
(iii) Phlegmatic – full of dullness and inactivity,
(iv) Melancholic – full of worry, excessive or possessive love.
OR going by the configurations of Enneagram;
1. ONES are inclined to fall prey to anger and perfectionism,
2. TWOS are inclined to have a need for praise and appreciation from people for services rendered,
3. THREES are inclined towards vanity and fear of failure,
4. FOURS are prone to the avoidance of ordinariness and often get melancholic,
5. FIVES are inclined towards intellectual stinginess or avoidance of emptiness,
6. SIXES are prone to extreme legalism and fear of innovations,
7. SEVENS are inclined towards pain avoidance, procrastination, escapism and inconsistency,
8. EIGHTS are often involved in power struggle, intimidation and impatience with the weak,
9. NINES are often victims of laziness, conflict avoidance or psychophancy.
Our challenge of holiness is the challenge of leaving these old traits like Abraham left his old country, old culture and old patrimony.

Christian life does not stop at Tabor (the mountain of prayer) but proceeds to Calvary where according to the late Bishop M U Eneje, ‘We begin to learn to like our dislikes’. The two tools recommended for character building are the same two tools used in horticulture; marcuttung for eliminating bad habits, Matt 5: 28f and grafting for acquiring new / positive ones, 2 Pet 1: 5 – 8. Only fanatics would want to remain on the mountain of Tabor and build 3 tents. Real believers would match towards Calvary and deal with their weaknesses.
We must submit our old character during this Lenten season to the Word of God through Jesus Christ. If we take ourselves to prayer as often as we can, we too like Christ will have our experience of transfiguration. Just pray for a little glimpse of the glory of Jesus, 1 Cor 2: 9 and your life will never be the same again.
* History has it that when St Thomas Aquinas had his little heavenly vision while celebrating the Holy Mass, the great scholar and writer swore never to write anymore because all he had written seemed to him like straw. He died two months later – a man whose thoughts have influenced the Catholic theology on the Eucharist, Angelology, etc. more than any other. Happy Sunday dear friends!


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