Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Transfiguration of the Lord

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

A Different Kind of Sun

Today we do not continue the Sundays in the Ordinary Time of the year. Today is supposed to be the eighteenth Sunday of the year. But we do not celebrate it. The reason is because a feast comes along which is always celebrated on August 6. This feast takes over the Sunday celebration because it is a feast of great importance in the life of Jesus. So today we get our readings from the feast of the transfiguration of our Lord.

There is a detail in our Gospel reading which is not in the parallel passages of Mark and Luke. All the first three Gospels record the transfiguration of our Lord. But the record of Matthew which is our Gospel reading today has a detail which is not recorded by Mark and Luke. This detail is found in the second verse. It says, “And he (Jesus) was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun”. The clause “his face shone like the sun” is not found in the passages of Mark and Luke. Only Matthew has this clause, this description of Jesus.

In Malachi 3:20 which is 4:2 in the Authorized Version Jesus is described as the sun of justice. In the Authorized Version it is translated as sun of righteousness. Jesus himself said on two occasions before the Jews, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12 and 9:5). The physical sun is the light of our physical world. Jesus compares himself to this and claims that he is the light of the spiritual world.

Remember the story of Moses when he finished conversing with God on Mount Sinai? When he returned to the people below the mountain, Aaron his brother and the other Israelites noticed that his face was radiant and they were afraid to come near him. Because of this Moses put on a veil to cover this radiance when he spoke to the people. (Exodus 34:29-35) This was similar to what happened to Jesus’ face at the moment of the transfiguration. The difference is that Jesus’ face shone like the sun, while Moses’ was only radiant, was glowing with light.

This description of Jesus as the sun of justice which was physically shown at the time of the transfiguration by his face shining like the sun is very relevant for us today, as it has been in the course of history.

The physical sun gives light and energy. With this light and energy we are able to see things on earth with our physical eyes. Not only that, the physical sun by its energy maintains life on earth and enables us to use our brain so that we can think and perform mental tasks like studying and creating some things.

Jesus as the spiritual sun gives us also light and energy. With this spiritual light and energy we are enabled to see spiritual realities. Not only do we see spiritual realities. We are enabled by Jesus as the sun of justice to live justly and to give glory to God. We can reflect this glory of Jesus in our life. As the Second Book of Esdras says, "Their face shall shine as the sun". (Second Esdras is part of the Jewish writings but it is not part of our approved Bible.)

Jesus wanted to show to his disciples that he was indeed a sun, but a different kind of sun, a spiritual sun, the sun of justice. By the light of this spiritual sun we are able to see things differently from that of the ordinary person in the world who does not follow Jesus.

Thus it has happened that in history many followers of Jesus saw things differently and did things differently. They changed history.

We have the example of the monk Telemachus who saw the evil in the gladiatorial shows of Rome while other persons enjoyed these. It is related that he tried to stop a gladiatorial fight in a Roman amphitheater, and was stoned to death by the crowd. The Christian Emperor Honorius, however, was impressed by the monk's martyrdom and it spurred him to issue a historic ban on gladiatorial fights. The last known gladiatorial fight in Rome was on 1 January 404 AD, thirteen years after Telemachus’ death.

Or take the case of slavery. From ancient times this was an accepted practice and many well-meaning persons did not see anything evil with it as long as the slaves were treated well. But Pope John VIII saw otherwise. In 873 he commanded under penalty of sin that all Christians who hold other Christians as slaves must set them free. In 1537 Pope Paul III forbade the slavery of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and any other population to be discovered, establishing their right to freedom and property. This led to movements favoring the complete abolition of slavery.

In the nineteenth century William Wilberforce campaigned for the total abolition of slavery in England and its possessions. In 1833 the Slavery Abolition Act was passed by the English Parliament. William Wilberforce was an Anglican Christian who was enlightened by the Sun of Justice to abolish the injustice of slavery. He worked for the abolition of slavery in England for twenty long years. He succeeded and other nations followed by outlawing slavery in their dominions.

There are many other examples of practices which were accepted by people but on being exposed to the Sun of Justice were abolished or modified. Some of these are the elevation of the dignity of women, the humanization of working conditions in factories, the acknowledgement of human freedoms, and so forth.

One of the practices which I want to be scrutinized under the light of this Sun of Justice is boxing. It is an accepted sport by almost everybody and there are many apparently good Christians who engage in it and even promote it. But lately some Christians have been asking if Jesus would favor the sport of boxing.

So far the efforts to ban boxing are mainly in the medical field. Doctors object to boxing as harmful to the human body. While some Christians do object to boxing, I have not yet found someone who objected to it on the reason that what one is boxing is the temple of God, the human body.

Here is one comment about the stand of Jesus on boxing. “Though faith is fervent among modern-day gladiators (and championed by nationally known pastors like Mark Driscoll and Ryan Dobson), make no mistake about it: One would have to be a virtuoso of self-deception to imagine that our Lord Jesus would have been in a front-row seat at the klieg-lit den of voluntary human punishment.” (Kyle Roberts in

May the day come when more and more Christians be enlightened by Jesus the Sun of Justice to see the evils in boxing and put a definite stop to it, like what happened with the gladiatorial shows in Rome.

In our lives Jesus is shining as the Sun of Justice. He shows us practices or even habits we have which do not give glory to him. He sends us his Spirit to convict us of these attitudes or activities. And if we allow him, he will burn these attitudes or activities by the heat of his rays.

In the first Reading we heard that there was one like a Son of man who received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed. This is happening now. As the light of Jesus’ face shines on our world we see more and more of ourselves and of our world and are being persuaded to give him rule over all of us, even in the area of boxing and other sports.

In the second reading Peter who was an eyewitness of the transfiguration of Jesus tells us, “You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” Peter uses here a very beautiful imagery. As we look closely, attentively to Jesus, the lamp shining in a dark place, our hearts are enlightened and a morning star rises in them. The morning star is a signal that the sun is about to shine. The morning star rising in our heart is a signal that Jesus, the Sun of Justice, is about to shine in our homes, our workplace and other areas of our life.   

Let us bow our heads in prayer.

Lord Jesus, you are the Sun of Righteousness, the Sun of Justice. You shine in our hearts. Continue to enlighten us and to purify us so that like you we will also shine like the stars. Amen.

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Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world. 

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