The Transfiguration of Christ
2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A
One cold winter evening a priest was walking through a dangerous neighborhood (by the way, this is not Fr. G’s true life experience). A man hiding in the shadows didn’t recognize him as a priest because the priest had his topcoat buttoned up to his chin. The man came out of the shadows with a gun and asked the priest to give him his wallet. When the priest opened his coat to get it, the man with the gun saw his Roman collar and apologized. He said, “Sorry Father, I didn’t know you were a priest. I can’t steal from you. Just go on your way.” Of course, the priest was so relieved he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a cigar. He said, “Thank you my good man. Let me give you a cigar.” The robber said, “I appreciate that Father, but I can’t take it. I gave up smoking for LENT.”
In today’s Gospel, we find three of Jesus’ apostles, Peter, James and John with our Blessed Lord on top of the Mount of Transfiguration. He wanted them to be with Him in one of His glorious moments, from being the Jesus of Nazareth into the Risen Christ of Glory. "Come with me," He tells them. "Come with me to share in this mountaintop experience. I want to share with you something that's really special – my destiny.”
So what’s the relevance of Jesus’ transfiguration to all of us? As a miracle it served to strengthen the faith of the apostles, Peter, James and John, when they had recovered from their fear. The Transfiguration is of the greatest relevance for us, to our very hope of happiness. For, if we interpret these events carefully, we can glimpse the glory that God wills us to have by faith in His beloved Son. The glory we seek in our final union with Him!
One important detail from the Gospel that's worth noting what is being transfigured. Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. As the divine Son of God, he has the eternal glory of God. Therefore, what happened on the mountain cannot have changed his divinity, which cannot change. What happened on the mountain is that his humanity, his human nature, was transfigured. The Gospel begins by saying that, “His face shone like the sun.” What makes a face shine like this is the vision of God, face-to-face, just as an object placed in a bright light itself becomes bright. And this is the first thing that the Transfiguration teaches us about the transformation of life. In the life of heaven, we shall see God face-to-face, and then our faces will shine, not just for a moment but for all eternity.
Human living seems very tragic and at times hopeless as some people would claim. But if we look more closely to Christ’s transfiguration, then we see that there is hope. A promise of glory awaits us in heaven. Though it may be long, God’s grace is immense to have.
After the Resurrection, Scripture promises a new heaven and a new earth, a kingdom and a country, descriptions, which imply holy and imperishable material things. Even if many of the saints lived in tents in this life, we look forward to a city, a city “whose builder and maker is God.” (Heb 11:10). The entire celebration of the Lenten season reminds us of a glorious future that’s in store for us in heaven. Our mortal bodies will be glorified like Christ who brought us salvation. It is for this reason that we give up something during lent because we believe that by doing so, we manifest in our lives the very transfiguration of Christ, who gave up and denied Himself that we may have hope in eternal life with God in heaven.
Another detail the Gospel reports that, Moses and Elijah appeared, conversing with him. Now of course Moses and Elijah had been dead for many centuries, so today's Gospel obviously confirms the immortality of their souls, which also tells us that our souls survive death. It also confirms something else: that though their souls retain their individuality after death, they too retain their companionship with one another united around their faith in Jesus Christ. And their companionship assures us of something else: heaven is a society where we shall not lack for friends. Heaven is a place where COMMUNION continues to prosper, where CHARITY finds its fulfillment.
Pope Emeritus Benedict, in his message for lent 2012 clearly underlines responsibility towards our brothers and sisters when he said: “The great commandment of love for one another demands that we acknowledge our responsibility towards those who, like ourselves, are creatures and children of God. Being brothers and sisters in humanity and, in many cases, also in the faith, should help us to recognize in others a true alter ego, infinitely loved by the Lord. If we cultivate this way of seeing others as our brothers and sisters, solidarity, justice, mercy and compassion will naturally well up in our hearts.”This is the very reason why the Church rejects HHS (Health and Human Services Regulations) because such regulations undermine our identity to love, to respond to our fellow Christians in need. As we are called to give up our health care institutions, universities and many of social service organizations that by their identity reflect our very own faith, we will lose our capacity to practice charity to the fullest. This will make it impossible for our Catholic Institutions to follow their conscience. The Transfiguration of Christ reminds us on this regard to be united as a community of God to voice our concerns against this regulation.
The 2nd Sunday of lent reminds us to celebrate Christ’s transfiguration. We are called to enter into new life with Him now so that when our time comes we can enter more worthily into his glory. Someday, as Jesus was changed, we too will be changed if we remain in union with Him. As we lay aside this present life with its joys and sorrows, its triumphs and its weaknesses, we will enter into a glorious new world which Jesus has opened up for us. We too will be transfigured.
So what are we giving up for lent? I think the best question we should ask during this season is, “What would we take on this Lenten season?” Let us remind ourselves in the coming Sundays of our Lenten commitment/s. As we commit ourselves to it/them each passing Sunday, we’ll come to appreciate what it means to be transfigured - to live Christ's divinity. Let each waking day be a "transfiguration," a transformation of our lives for the greater glory of God.