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Following Jesus in his exodus

In today’s Mass we focus on some significantly particular aspects of the transfiguration that are found only in Luke’s version of the gospel. This evangelist alone specifies why Jesus goes up the mountain: he goes to pray (v.28).

During prayer, the aspect of his face changes (v.29), but not in the way the other evangelists narrate. Luke does not speak of transfiguration, but of a change of the aspect of his face. This splendour is the sign of the glory that wraps a person who is united with God.

The light on Jesus’ face indicates that during prayer, he understood and owned the Father’s plan. He understood that his sacrifice would not be complete with defeat, but in the glory of the resurrection.

During this spiritual experience of Jesus, two characters; Moses and Elijah (vv.30-31) appear. They are symbols of the law and the prophets; they represent the whole of the Old Testament.

All holy books of Israel have the purpose of leading to a dialogue with Jesus; they are oriented toward him. Without Jesus the Old Testament is incomprehensible, but also Jesus, without the Old Testament, remains a mystery.

The three disciples; Peter, James and John understand nothing of what was happening (vv.32-33). They were sleepy.

Biblical authors often used sleep in a symbolic sense. In the passage, sleep indicates the inability of the disciples to understand and to accept that the Messiah of God must pass through death in order to enter into his glory.

The three tents are the most difficult detail to explain. Building a tent indicates wanting to fix an abode in one place and not to move again; at least for a time. Jesus instead is always on the go.

Today’s gospel says that he must fulfill an exodus and the disciples are invited to follow him. The three tents perhaps indicate the desire of Peter to stay put in order to perpetuate the joy of a moment of intense prayer.

The cloud (v.34), especially when it envelopes the top of the mountain indicates—according to the biblical language—the invisible presence of God. Whoever follows in his footsteps is pleasing to God. The voice from heaven says listen to him——even when he seems to propose extremely difficult paths, narrow roads, paradoxical and humanly absurd choices.

At the end of the episode (v.36), Jesus is there alone. Moses and Elijah disappear. This particularly shows the function of the Old Testament: to bring to Jesus, to make people understand Jesus. In the end, the eyes must remain focussed on him.

It is not easy to believe in the revelation of Jesus and to accept his proposal of life. It is not easy to follow him in his exodus. To trust him is highly risky. It is true that he promises a glorious future, but that which man experiences here and now is rejection, the free gift of self.


The answer comes from the annotation with which today’s gospel begins. The episode of the transfiguration is placed by Luke eight days after Jesus dramatically announced his passion, death and resurrection, another eight days later, he proclaimed the conditions for following him: “Renounce yourself and take up your cross every day” (Luke 9:22-27).




Father Fernando Armellini CMF
Claretian Publications