August 6, 2023
Solemnity of the Transfiguration
Mt 17: 1-9
Matthew's Gospel emphasizes in several passages the aspect of listening, as something essential and central to the experience of faith.
He does so whenever he scatters a few Old Testament quotations throughout the text, which happens often, to say that the Gospel is a Word first and foremost heard: a Word so deeply heard that it can be fulfilled in a definitive way.
But it also does so whenever it proposes listening as an attitude that defines the believer's journey.
Consider, for instance, the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says that those who hear and put into practice the Word are like a house built on rock (Mt 7:24).
Or the parabolic discourse (Mt 13), which the Liturgy has offered us in its entirety the past few Sundays: every parable, after all, is built around the theme of listening, of opening one's heart to receive and cherish the seed of the Word; which is the real treasure, the precious pearl.
Listening, then, is the proper attitude of the disciple, but not only that: in chapter 8, Matthew shows us Jesus speaking to the sea in a threatening way, and the sea calms down; immediately afterwards he intimates to the demon to leave the two possessed and move into the swine, and they obey. Nothing resists the Word but man's freedom: later (Mt 12:41-42), Jesus rebukes scribes and Pharisees who ask for a sign, reminding them that the inhabitants of Nineveh were converted not because they saw signs but because they heard the word of Jonah; and so the Queen of the South, with the word of Solomon.
" Whoever has ears, ought to hear" (Mt 11:15; 13:43): this is a refrain that returns again and again.
Why this long introduction?
Because the theme of listening is also central in today's passage (Mt 17:1-9).
Jesus goes up a mountain, the place par excellence where God reveals himself, where God speaks.
For Jesus is also first and foremost one who listens, one who is received, one who obeys.
And this is also confirmed by the presence on the mountain of Moses and Elijah alongside Jesus: Jesus is constantly in relationship with the Scriptures, with all that God has said, because everything in him is fulfilled.
On the mountain, then, where Jesus went up to listen, the Father speaks.
He says what He had already said at the Baptism (Mt. 3:17), He speaks about His Son, His beloved Son with whom the Father is pleased, with whom He rejoices. He adds, "Listen to him" (Mt 17:5).
Then we could say that transfiguration is nothing other than what happens to the one who listens: the encounter with the Father, the filial relationship with Him, cannot fail to transform life and make it become, slowly, what everyone's life is called to be: a place of God's presence, a temple of His Spirit and His Glory.
But what are we called to listen to?
The account of the transfiguration is built on the watermark of the great theophany described in chapter 19 of the Book of Exodus. Many elements are recalled: the mountain, the cloud, the garments, the fear....
There, too, on Sinai, God speaks, and he speaks with a powerful voice, like the loud voice of a horn, making the earth tremble, setting the mountain on fire...
On Tabor, however, things change: God speaks to tell us to listen to the Son. God's powerful word, his creative word, now gives itself to us in the voice of a man, in the weakness of a human experience.
A man, among others, on his way to Jerusalem, where he will not raise his voice, will not impose himself, will not judge anyone, but will enter into the great silence of death to say what life is not enough to say, and that the Father's love for the beloved Son is meant to be, a love for all.
Just like Elijah, the other witness on Tabor, who in chapter 19 of the First Book of Kings also experiences his theophany: he too goes up the mountain, into the presence of the Lord, and to him too, God speaks, not with a voice of thunder, not with a mighty voice, but with the whisper of a gentle breeze (1 Kings 19:12).
So is the voice of the beloved Son: a Word as light as a seed, as precious as a treasure, as strong as love.