Father Koch: Transfiguration pre-figures Jesus' Resurrection

August 7, 2023 at 8:31 p.m.
A mosaic of the Transfiguration of the Lord in the Church of the Transfiguration, in the Israeli region of Galilee in this 2006 file photo. OSV News photo/Greg Tarczyinski, CNS
A mosaic of the Transfiguration of the Lord in the Church of the Transfiguration, in the Israeli region of Galilee in this 2006 file photo. OSV News photo/Greg Tarczyinski, CNS


Gospel reflection for Aug. 6, 2023 – Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

This Solemnity of the Transfiguration is one of the few that supersedes a Sunday of Ordinary Time, so it notes a special and particular moment in the life of the revelation of Jesus Christ to the world.

Pope St. Paul VI died 45 years ago today, also a Sunday, reminding the Church of the glory of the Transfiguration. It is with some blessed irony that his noble birth name “Montini” references the mountains, and his episcopal motto was: “Cum Ipso in monte,” (“with him on the mountain”). Like the apostles we ascend the mountain, only to be transformed in our journey of faith.

Peter, James and John learned more about Jesus atop the mountain than they did through any other experience or encounter with Jesus throughout the course of their time with him. Yet, as they come down the mountain they get so distracted by what else is going on, that they “forget” about this moment until after Jesus has been raised from the dead.

The mountaintop draws our attention to contemplation on the face of Jesus. It is the face that bears the emotions -- for good and for sill -- to the world. While some pride themselves on having a “poker face” there really is no such thing. The face changes over time to reflect the path of one’s life and burdens and joys that one has carried through life.

Looking at the evolution of one’s face through time clearly reflects this hidden, yet ever present, mystery. This reality becomes poignant now when we attend a wake and see the progression of photos streaming past quickly on storyboards or a television monitor. We can see how the deceased has changed -- some age well and others not so much.

Pope St. Paul VI grew more stoic over his 15- year ministry as the chief shepherd of the Church. Dissention, assassination attempts and the realities of the civil unrest and upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s took their toll on him. The smile faded from his face and his eyes grew darker and sunken.

We do not really know what the face of Jesus looked like, and can assume that he had features similar to most other 30- year-old men of Galilean descent in the first century. Though a young man, Jesus’s features were likely etched with the effects of hard work, time spent in the sun, and the hardness of life. People aged more quickly then, and he was likely more gray than brown in hair and skin tone by the time he and the disciples ascended the mountain. The transformation of his face -- reminiscent of the transformation of the appearance of Moses upon his descent from Mt. Sinai -- was startling to the disciples. The people were forever after unable to gaze upon the face of Moses and he remained veiled for the rest of his life. The face of Jesus is not covered with a physical veil -- after Moses and Elijah have faded away Jesus appears the same as he did before. They have only glimpsed his fullness. This will not be revealed in its totality until after the resurrection. It is then that the disciples struggle to recognize who he is.

Pope Paul VI was scheduled to deliver a few words of reflection that evening of the Transfiguration after praying the Angelus with those who assembled outside of the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. In his remarks for the evening, the Holy Father was going to say: “‘The Transfiguration of the Lord, recalled by the liturgy of today’s solemnity throws a dazzling light on our daily life, and makes us turn our mind to the immortal destiny which that fact foreshadows.”

The scarring of the human face -- a reminder of the past -- gives way to the glorified face to be revealed in each of us at the resurrection of the dead.

It is not just the immortal destiny of Jesus or his Sonship we celebrate today, rather it is the destiny and relationship of each one of us that we also hold up today to the Father. The collect for today’s Mass reads: O God, in the glorious Transfiguration of your only begotten Son confirmed the mysteries of faith by witness of the Fathers grant, we pray, to your servants that, listening to the voice of your beloved Son, we may merit to be co-heirs with him.”

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.


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Gospel reflection for Aug. 6, 2023 – Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

This Solemnity of the Transfiguration is one of the few that supersedes a Sunday of Ordinary Time, so it notes a special and particular moment in the life of the revelation of Jesus Christ to the world.

Pope St. Paul VI died 45 years ago today, also a Sunday, reminding the Church of the glory of the Transfiguration. It is with some blessed irony that his noble birth name “Montini” references the mountains, and his episcopal motto was: “Cum Ipso in monte,” (“with him on the mountain”). Like the apostles we ascend the mountain, only to be transformed in our journey of faith.

Peter, James and John learned more about Jesus atop the mountain than they did through any other experience or encounter with Jesus throughout the course of their time with him. Yet, as they come down the mountain they get so distracted by what else is going on, that they “forget” about this moment until after Jesus has been raised from the dead.

The mountaintop draws our attention to contemplation on the face of Jesus. It is the face that bears the emotions -- for good and for sill -- to the world. While some pride themselves on having a “poker face” there really is no such thing. The face changes over time to reflect the path of one’s life and burdens and joys that one has carried through life.

Looking at the evolution of one’s face through time clearly reflects this hidden, yet ever present, mystery. This reality becomes poignant now when we attend a wake and see the progression of photos streaming past quickly on storyboards or a television monitor. We can see how the deceased has changed -- some age well and others not so much.

Pope St. Paul VI grew more stoic over his 15- year ministry as the chief shepherd of the Church. Dissention, assassination attempts and the realities of the civil unrest and upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s took their toll on him. The smile faded from his face and his eyes grew darker and sunken.

We do not really know what the face of Jesus looked like, and can assume that he had features similar to most other 30- year-old men of Galilean descent in the first century. Though a young man, Jesus’s features were likely etched with the effects of hard work, time spent in the sun, and the hardness of life. People aged more quickly then, and he was likely more gray than brown in hair and skin tone by the time he and the disciples ascended the mountain. The transformation of his face -- reminiscent of the transformation of the appearance of Moses upon his descent from Mt. Sinai -- was startling to the disciples. The people were forever after unable to gaze upon the face of Moses and he remained veiled for the rest of his life. The face of Jesus is not covered with a physical veil -- after Moses and Elijah have faded away Jesus appears the same as he did before. They have only glimpsed his fullness. This will not be revealed in its totality until after the resurrection. It is then that the disciples struggle to recognize who he is.

Pope Paul VI was scheduled to deliver a few words of reflection that evening of the Transfiguration after praying the Angelus with those who assembled outside of the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. In his remarks for the evening, the Holy Father was going to say: “‘The Transfiguration of the Lord, recalled by the liturgy of today’s solemnity throws a dazzling light on our daily life, and makes us turn our mind to the immortal destiny which that fact foreshadows.”

The scarring of the human face -- a reminder of the past -- gives way to the glorified face to be revealed in each of us at the resurrection of the dead.

It is not just the immortal destiny of Jesus or his Sonship we celebrate today, rather it is the destiny and relationship of each one of us that we also hold up today to the Father. The collect for today’s Mass reads: O God, in the glorious Transfiguration of your only begotten Son confirmed the mysteries of faith by witness of the Fathers grant, we pray, to your servants that, listening to the voice of your beloved Son, we may merit to be co-heirs with him.”

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.

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