The Transfiguration of the Lord
The feast of Senhor Bom Jesus of Iguape, Brasil, is celebrated every year on the feast of The Transfiguration. The statue of Bom Jesus is of Jesus (holding a sugarcane branch) before Pilate. It was destined for a sugar plantation in the North East of the country. However, when the ship coming from Portugal was invaded by pirates the statue was thrown overboard and later (1648) found on a beach by the local people. After some attempts to bring it to a nearby town failed it was finally brought over the mountains and beaches to Iguape. The devotion to Bom Jesus is very strong, with people declaring many signs and miracles. People come in their thousands every year, travelling on horseback, on foot, by boat, bus and car. They readily empathise with this suffering Jesus. The pilgrims bring images, drawings, stories, photographs, first salary, medical reports, etc, and these are placed at the feet of Bom Jesus in gratitude for the wonders, the hope, the changes, the blessings He has brought about in their lives.
But why celebrate the feast on Transfiguration Day, with its scripture readings that speak of Hope and Glory?
When Jesus tells the disciples that he was to be killed and that those who follow Him must deny themselves, they do not receive the message too well. Peter goes so far as to reproach Jesus for saying such things. So `six days later’, he brings the same Peter with James and John `up a high mountain`. In the past Moses and Elijah were led by God to the holy mountain to witness His glory (Ex 33:18; 1 Kg. 19:9). Then Jesus´ appearance changes before them – the dazzling clothes remind us of the morning of the Resurrection. Peter was so overcome by the appearance of the two Prophets speaking with Jesus that he makes the suggestion about tents. Covered by a bright cloud – the cloud that in several episodes in the Bible indicates the mysterious presence of God – they hear a voice `This is my Beloved Son, my chosen one. Listen to Him.´ Peter tells us in the second reading today of his experience of being an eyewitness to the majesty of Jesus on this occasion. The disciples fall in fear and are told, `Stand up, do not be afraid.´ How many times did they, do we, need to be told, `Be not afraid.´?
Back to Brasil and Bom Jesus: Jesus suffered; the people who throng to the festa are suffering, but the Transfiguration lifts them beyond that. Jesus´ message of promise, of resurrection, of `stand up, do not be afraid´, gives hope to an oppressed and marginalized people. So celebrating Bom Jesus on Transfiguration Day is knowing that the daily struggles and sufferings are being transformed into something greater by the suffering Christ who makes life bearable. It is hope, comfort, it is resurrection!
Viva Bom Jesus De Iguape.
Sr Bridget O’Driscoll OP