(Saint John Fisher Church, Tarragindi: Saturday 6pm, Sunday 9:00am)
15/16 March 2014
[Readings: Gen 12:1-4; Ps 32; 2 Tim 1:8-10; Mt 17:1-9]
Having heard today’s readings its good to recall what we heard last Sunday. In the first reading last week we heard of the original temptation and the original sin. Adam and Eve were tempted to disobey what God had told them … they were lied to by the serpent who made them jealous, thinking that God was keeping something from them. And they rebelled, and did what they were told not to. In the Gospel last weekend, Jesus – the new Adam – goes into the desert to fast, and there he contends with the devil, and faces all the temptations that beset humanity.
Those readings set the tone of Lent: we enter into our own forty days of fasting which Jesus has made holy by his forty days in the wilderness. We acknowledge our personal sinfulness, and our sharing in the sin of humanity, present since Adam and Eve. We try to live the disciplines of Lent to aid in our ongoing conversion to Christ by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
And now today we come to the Gospel of the Transfiguration. Last Sunday Jesus was in the wilderness contending with the devil, squaring off against temptation and sin … and today Jesus is on the mountain with Moses and Elijah. If last Sunday Jesus was drawing close to humanity in its weakness and temptation, today his true identity, his divinity, is literally shining through. These two Sundays in a sense point to Holy Week. Jesus’ combat with the devil in his temptations looks ahead to his agony in the garden, his betrayal, and then his bitter passion and death. But today’s readings point to Easter … they point to the time when Christ will always be in glory, not just for this brief moment of transfiguration.
And so, having begun our Lenten disciplines, having been invited yet again to look at our lives, to reflect on how we’re going in our Christian discipleship, to ask ourselves how we’re measuring up against the standards Christ calls us to; with all that in mind we have a reminder today of the point of all that. “[T]he last word in the struggle of the Christian life does not, actually, lie with struggle. The last word does not belong to coping with temptation. On the contrary, the last word lies with seeing the glory of God” (1)
The point of everything we do is so that we may see the glory of God. As Saint Paul says to the Romans, whatever sufferings we might face now are as nothing compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. This was part of the function of the Transfiguration when it happened. Jesus had been preparing his disciples for his passion and death, and in order to help them deal with the scandal of that news, they were given a glimpse of what would be after his passion and death took place. The suffering is as nothing compared to the glory to come.
And so for us too – as difficult as our present problems might really be, there is a joy far greater that is being prepared for us. This doesn’t eliminate our suffering, any more than it made Christ’s crucifixion disappear … however, it helps us realize that struggle and suffering are not the final word, and are never the final word.
If we are members of the mystical body of Christ, then just as we share in his sufferings, and his death, we also share in his glorification. And so, in our own lives, the mystery of the transfiguration has its place. Last weekend, the Archbishop led us in reflecting on passages from the Holy Father’s exhortation, the Joy of the Gospel. And perhaps its in our very living of the joy of the Gospel that we can allow the glory of God to shine through us and our lives.
When the disciples saw Jesus transfigured, they were seeing something that would be permanent in the future. And so our attempts to live the joy of the gospel are in themselves pointing to that future when God’s kingdom will reign. And so when we allow love to triumph over hatred and vengeance, then we are giving a glimpse of that time when God’s love will finally triumph. When we work to bring people together and heal differences, we are giving a glimpse of that time when all God’s people will be gathered as one, with all divisions gone.
So, let’s have our eyes open for transfiguration moments … moments when the glory of God is particularly evident to us. Those moments are gifts of God to us … gifts given to remind us of where we’re heading, to strengthen us in other moments of darkness, struggle.
And particularly through our special efforts of keeping a holy Lent, may it be true that God’s glory might also shine through us and our lives; that others might be given hope and strength when they see and feel the love of God visibly and tangibly in our lives.
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(1) Aidan Nichols OP, Year of the Lord’s Favour: A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy, volume 2, p. 105.