We are invited to yield to a possibility found only in Jesus.
Just one verse each day.
A dear friend of mine was a person quiet and reserved when first we met him some decades ago in his seminary student days. A few years after he was ordained a priest, he gave a public presentation I attended that was simply spellbinding. Many other of his friends were also in the audience. At the questions and answers session, one woman—awestruck—couldn’t contain her enthusiasm: “I have known you for years. But something is different now. You have become great!” She was struck because he was transfigured.
When we meet a transfigured person, we are moved. The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent each year is always that of the Transfiguration—the Church’s way of alerting us how much we need the graces of the Transfiguration to make our Lenten journey. What’s so crucial about the Transfiguration?
Things are not what they seem
Peter, James, and John, upon hearing the Sermon on the Mount, seeing demons cast out, and witnessing miracle after miracle, must have had some sense of Jesus. Maybe they thought they had him all figured out. Tabor was a revelation that altered everything—one that defined their existence from that moment on. The Transfiguration event permanently adjusted the way they looked at life, the world, everything—especially the Lord himself.
We need that too. So often we get stuck at the mere appearance of things … particularly regarding ourselves. We see all too well our limitations, our weaknesses, our foibles, our mediocrity, our inadequacy … and we gloomily presume that that’s the whole picture—there’s nothing more. But the Transfiguration proclaims that things are not what they seem. Everything we suppose to know so well possesses depths beyond our imagining. The Transfiguration is an invitation to abandon our preconceptions and pessimism and to yield to a possibility found only in Jesus. The eruption of Tabor awakens us to wonder.
St. Ambrose tells us: “Christ was sent by the Father to shine on us in the glory of his face, and so enable us to see what is eternal and heavenly, where before we were imprisoned in the darkness of this world.”
We have seen his glory
Since “love is the faculty of seeing” (Richard of St. Victor), the Transfiguration is a gift of love. John the Evangelist can’t begin his Gospel but by going back to what happened to him at the Transfiguration:
The light shines on in darkness,
A darkness that did not overcome it ….
The Word became flesh
And made his dwelling among us,
And we have seen his glory:
The glory of an only Son coming from the Father.
For John, the only fitting way to judge the circumstances of life is via the illumination provided by the Transfiguration.
Soon we will see Jesus Christ nailed to a cross. Devoid of the brilliance of Tabor, we could misconstrue that appearance as failure and defeat: a pitiful icon of our own inability and misery. But the brightness of the Transfiguration shines on our minds through the wisdom of St. Ephrem the Syrian, Doctor of the Church:
Jesus showed the disciples his glory before his ignominy so that when he was made a prisoner and condemned, they might understand that he was not crucified because of his own powerlessness, but because it had pleased him of his goodness to suffer for the salvation of the world.
And gazing upon that glory, we become what we behold.
Find Fr. Peter John Cameron’s reflection on the Sunday Gospel each week here.