March 12, 2017
Second Sunday of Lent
GN 12:1-4A PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22 2 TM 1:8B-10 MT 17:1-9
Today’s Gospel recounts Christ’s Transfiguration on Mt Tabor, where God revealed to Peter, James, and John not only Christ’s divinity, but what later they would understand to be His resurrected, perfected self. At that time, they couldn’t have comprehended what they were witnessing. So much so, that Peter said, if it’s okay with you, Jesus, I’d like to erect three shrines to commemorate this event. At that point, God’s voice proclaimed from the heavens Christ’s divine nature as His beloved Son, and all three disciples fell face first to the earth. I can imagine their fear and confusion. Then, upon descending the mountain, Jesus instructed them not to say anything to anybody until after He was raised from the dead. I’m sure the three became even more confused.
What was Jesus trying to show them? In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus had told His disciples before the Transfiguration that He would be handed over to the authorities, would suffer much, and die on the cross. The Transfiguration was meant to show them that despite His hardship and death, He would become glorified and resplendent in light and power. Conversing with Moses and Elijah indicated that those who remain faithful to God in life will be restored by Him to live in eternity. Those weren’t mere images of the two great prophets, or spectral images, but their real selves. Jesus wanted the disciples to know that, in their own lives to come, once He ascended to heaven, they too would suffer and be martyred, yet should they be faithful til the end – if they bore their share of hardship for the sake of the Gospel, as St Paul wrote to Timothy – they too would be transfigured, and be rewarded with eternal communion with God the Father.
The same grace is available to us. We might not suffer that level of hardship the disciples endured, and we might not be asked to suffer a red martyrdom. But make no mistake about it – if we are to live as disciples of Christ, as if our faith means everything, then yes, we will suffer in one form or another. Following Christ means bearing one’s cross, and persevering to the end. Christ’s Transfiguration is the hope we have in His promise when all seems hopeless. Christ’s Transfiguration is the vision of faith to strengthen us during the trials when it seems no longer believing would be easier and less painful. Christ’s Transfiguration is the love God has for all those who trust in His word, and follow His will to our own Golgotha, in whatever form it takes.
The disciples came to believe and understand this after receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. That was their pre-Transfiguration moment, their rebirth. The same happened to us at our Baptism, and was completed through Confirmation. We died and rose with Christ, infused with grace, filled with the Holy Spirit. In a way, we are already transfigured. We are meant to be lamps blazing upon a lampstand, showing the world we are a new creation by our words and deeds, by willingly suffering for Christ. We freely accept our crosses and tribulations, believing it’s God’s way of perfecting us in this life, so that in the next life, we will shine perfectly and brilliantly, free of every sorrow, pain, and trial.
Photo via Visual hunt