Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel
August 5, 2023 // Perspective

We Can Become Models of the Lord’s Glory in Our Lives

Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel

Transfiguration of the Lord
Matthew 17:1-9

This weekend, the Church invites us to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

The first reading is from the Book of Daniel. When this book was written, composed by an author whose identity has been lost, times were terrible for the Jews.

Alexander the Great died in 323 BC. His vast empire was disintegrated, and powerful generals seized parts for themselves. The part taken by Seleucus centered in Antioch, in modern Turkey, and included the Holy Land. Decades passed. Seleucus died, to be succeeded by his descendants, one of whom, Antiochus IV, saw himself as divine.

Imagining that he was a god, Antiochus IV brutally forced his subjects to worship him. Pious Jews stubbornly refused. The Book of Daniel is about Hebrew heroes who withstood this idolatry. The purpose of the book is clear. It was to rally Jews living under Antiochus IV to resist yielding to the royal demands that they salute Antiochus as a god.

In this reading, Daniel, dreams of the world in which Almighty God is supreme, and all proclaim the greatness of God.

If Daniel was written in code, so was the Second Epistle of Peter, which provides the second reading. This epistle appeared when times were bad, indeed fearful, for Christians. The Roman Emperor Nero was never timid when it came to oppressing Christians.

So, in calling believers to be steadfast in following Christ, the Epistle filled a genuine need, but for many early Christians, following Christ could be confusing.

Stories and legends, some probably developed in good intentions, others in less noble intentions, blurred the message of, and about, Jesus. This epistle insisted that Christians listen to the true story of Christ as given them by the Apostles. The true story is the guide to salvation. The Lord made this story available to all by teaching and commissioning the Apostles.

Matthew’s revelation of the Transfiguration supplies the third reading. Often Jesus faced demands for a sign from God that the Lord was the Messiah. Skeptics, maybe honestly curious, raised these demands.

Jesus was not silent. This section of Matthew is filled with responses to these demands. Jesus fed the multitudes with five loaves and two fish. He walked on water. He healed the sick. He foretold the future. He forgave sinners, an action only possible for God since all sin offended God in the last analysis.

Dramatically, Jesus stood before Peter, James, and John in the full radiance of divinity. He was God, the promised Messiah.

The Transfiguration profoundly placed before human vision Jesus, God as well as human.


For Peter, James, and John, the Transfiguration was a breath-taking moment in their lives. They saw Jesus in the full revelation of the Lord’s divinity and majesty. As several years passed, they too were transfigured. Called by Jesus, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, no longer confused, or hesitant, at times sinful humans, they became the models of the Lord’s glory in their lives, ordinary humans though they remained.

Recently, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, of Munich, Germany, publicly acknowledged, and asked forgiveness for, the conduct during the Second World War of a now deceased German bishop, Matthias Defreger, who was an officer in the German army when it invaded Italy.

Captain Defreger led an especially atrocious attack on a small Italian village, virtually destroying the town, and slaughtering men, women, and children, indiscriminately, all innocent civilians, “to set an example” for anyone who considered resisting the invaders. This raid illustrated how terrible human behavior can be when it ignores God.

By seeing, and responding to, Christ’s perfection, with its mercy, unqualified outreach, energy, and love, we can “transfigure” ourselves. Then, how magnificent we would be, how beautiful life would be!

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