19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 6th: The Transfiguration

This month we celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration. St. John Paul II included the Transfiguration of the Lord as one of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary when he published his encyclical on the Rosary of the Virgin Mary in 2002. In that encyclical he called the Mystery of the Transfiguration the “Mystery of Light par excellence” and an “icon of contemplation.” So let us contemplate the Mystery of the Transfiguration, and discover what it has to say to each one of us.

The most obvious detail is the setting for this event. St. Matthew describes Jesus as taking his chosen apostles “up a high mountain by themselves.” St. Luke makes the purpose of this hike more explicit, saying that they “went up the mountain to pray” (Luke 9:28).

Jesus frequently went off by himself to pray, even if he had to get up early in the morning or stay up late at night in order to do so. And each time, he found a place away from the crowds, a place away from the noise. Jesus was God incarnate, yet in his human nature he experienced this need to be alone with his Father in prayer on a regular basis. And in spite of the inconveniences, he made it a priority throughout his life. If that was necessary for him, how much more must it be necessary for us!

Throughout the Bible, mountaintops frequently appear as places of special encounters with God. In fact, the two Old Testament figures who appeared during the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah, each experienced dramatic theophanies when they ascended mountains to pray. It is no coincidence that this particular theophany also occurred on a mountaintop.

To climb a mountain requires effort. As one ascends, the air becomes clear and fresh, the view expands, and the business and confusion of everyday life seem to subside. To find God, to see God more clearly, to hear his voice and come to know him better, we have to make the effort to create space in our lives for encounters like this. We have to climb a mountain to pray now and again—whether that means going on a pilgrimage or a retreat, something significant usually happens when we take the risk of going up a high mountain by ourselves to pray.


Let us live our summer months striving to know our Lord and what he wants from us by dedicating some time to contemplation and prayer!