Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Transfiguration of the Lord, Year A, 06.08.2017

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 / 2 Peter 1:16-19 / Matthew 17:1-9

There is one thing that we will surely notice by now, as it makes its prominence around this time of the year. We see it on HDB flats and other buildings, on the streets, on cars, and also at the entrance of the Church. Yes, it’s the Singapore flag, as we prepare to celebrate the 52nd birthday of our nation.

The flag marked the beginning of our nation and our country. Over the years, as our country progressed and developed, the flag remained unchanged as it fluttered silently on flag-poles of national and government buildings.

The flag represents who we are as Singaporeans. So even though we are a multi-racial and multi-religious country, we are bounded in unity as symbolized by the upper red section of the flag. The lower white section represents purity and virtue. 

The crescent moon represents a rising young nation, while the five stars depict Singapore’s ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. In short, the flag reminds us of who we are as Singaporeans and what Singapore should be.

And we acknowledge the emotions that are stirred up in our hearts when the state flag is hoisted and the national anthem is sung. And one of those recent moments was when Joseph Schooling won the gold medal in the swimming event at the 2016 Olympics. We were proud to be Singaporeans.

It was a glorious “remembered moment”. So whenever the flag is hoisted up, it recalls for us all those “remembered moments” of our country.

Today, the Church celebrates a “remembered moment” in the life of Jesus, and it is celebrated in the feast of the Transfiguration.

In the presence of His three disciples, Jesus was transfigured – His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.

It was a moment in the life of Jesus that was recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and St. Peter also recalled it in his letter in the 2nd reading.

But just as we need to know the meaning of the symbols of the flag in order to understand what it represents, we also need to know the purpose of the Transfiguration.

The Transfiguration reminds us of what we are created for and what we are to be eternally. In other words, we are created to have faces that shine like the sun and with hearts that are as white as the light.

The Transfiguration of Jesus is a “remembered moment” because it recalls for us who we are and what we are to be.

But in the drudgery of life, our memory becomes dimmed, and the shine begins to fade.
Coupled with the troubles of life, we succumb to the temptations of the devil and we get discouraged and we slowly begin to get disfigured.

The sun in our faces get covered by dark storm-clouds, and the light in our hearts fade and give way to darkness.

Discouragement and distress can cause disfiguration, but the Transfiguration of the Lord tells us that it can be different, and it must be different.

We see some examples of this in the Bible:
- When the Israelites were caught in the distressful situation between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, they wailed in terror. But Moses told them, “God will fight your battles for you” (Ex 14:14). How? The Red Sea parted and the Israelites crossed over but the Egyptians were drowned in the sea.

- David, the one who brought down Goliath, was pursued and hunted by king Saul. Then David had the opportunity to take his revenge when Saul was sleeping alone in a cave. But he said, “I shall not harm the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam 26:9). David later became Israel’s greatest king.

-  St. Augustine, after his conversion from a life of debauchery, wrote this: Our hearts are made for you O God, and they shall not rest until they rest in you.

These are just some of the “remembered moments” from the Bible and from the lives of the saints, and they tell us that things can be different and must be different.
The disfiguration caused by discouragement and distress can be healed by these “remembered moments” and the Transfiguration of the Lord brings about that healing for us.

Last Friday, 4th August, was the feast-day of St. John Vianney, Patron Saint of all Priests, who was also known for his ministry as a confessor.

There is this story from his early days as a seminarian. John Vianney was called up by the Rector of the Major Seminary where he was studying for the priesthood, to inform him of the negative report he received from his professors. 

The Rector said: “John, your teachers don’t think you have what it takes to be ordained a priest and they cannot in good conscience present you for ordination.  One professor in particular went on record saying that you are as dumb as a donkey!”

But John Vianney, was not perplexed at all. After a moment of silence, he replied: “Father Rector, do you remember the story in chapter 15 of the book of Judges, where God used Samson to kill a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey, thus saving the people of Israel?”

“Of course I do” answered the Rector. John Vianney continued, “If God could work such a wonderful deed with the jawbone of a donkey, can you imagine what God can accomplish with a total donkey?”

Indeed, it was another “remembered moment” and indeed God transfigured a “dumb as a donkey” John Vianney into the Patron Saint of all Priests.

So the Transfiguration of the Lord is not a cleverly invented myth that is repeated year after year.

The Transfiguration brings about the healing of the disfiguration caused by discouragement and distress.

The Transfiguration of the Lord also encourages us to recall those “remembered moments” in the Bible and also in the lives of the saints.

May those “remembered moments” make our faces shine like the sun and may our hearts be white as the light.