Transfiguration of our Lord
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
The month of February is dedicated to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Let us ask the Holy Family for the grace of renewed love for God and one another within families throughout the world! This Sunday we celebrate the 2nd Sunday of Lent. I share with you a reflection on the Transfiguration of our Lord. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week: “From Tabor to Calvary: The important thing is to be always with Jesus. He will help us to progress.
My heart says to Thee, ‘Thy face, Lord, do I seek. Hide not Thy face from me,’ we pray in the Entrance Antiphon of today’s Holy Mass. (Entrance Antiphon, Ps. 26:8-9) The Gospel tells us what happened on Mount Tabor. Shortly before, in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus had declared to His disciples that He was to undergo suffering in Jerusalem, that He was going to die at the hands of the chief priests, the elders and the Scribes. The Apostles had been saddened and dismayed by this announcement. Now Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John, and He led them apart (cf. Mark 9:2) to pray. (cf. Luke 9:28) They are the three disciples who later will witness His agony in the Garden of Olives. And as He was praying, the appearance of His countenance was altered, and His raiment became dazzling white. (Luke 9:29) They saw Him talking to Elijah and Moses who appeared in glory and spoke of His death which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem. (cf. Luke 9:31)
For six days the Apostles had been weighed down by sorrow by the announcement made in Caesarea Philippi. It is Jesus’ tenderness that enables them to contemplate His glorification. St. Leo the Great says that, The principal aim of the Transfiguration was to banish from the disciples’ souls the scandal of the Cross. (St. Leo the Great, Sermon 51, 3) The disciples would never forget this drop of honey that Jesus gave them in the midst of His grief. Many years later, St. Peter would recall these moments in all their clarity: And the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My Beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased,’ we heard this voice borne from Heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain. (2 Pet. 1:17-18) The Apostle was to remember them for the rest of his life.
Jesus always behaves in this way towards His own. In the midst of the greatest sufferings He gives us the consolation we need to keep going forward.
The flash of God’s glory transported the disciples into a state of immense happiness. It made St. Peter exclaim: Master, it is well that we are here, let us make three booths… Peter wants to make that situation last longer. But, as the Evangelist was to say later, not knowing what he said, because what is good, what really matters, is not to be in this place or that, but always to be with Jesus, wherever we are, and to be able to see Him behind all the circumstances in which we may find ourselves. If we are with Him, it is all the same whether we find ourselves surrounded by the greatest consolations in the world, or in a hospital bed suffering indescribable pain. The only thing that matters is that we always see Him and live in His presence. It is the only really good and important thing in this life and in the next. If we remain with Jesus, we will be very close to other people and we will be happy in whatever place or situation we may find ourselves. Vultum tuum, Domine, requiram. I want to see You and I will seek Your face, Lord, in the ordinary circumstances of each day.
Often foster the Hope of Heaven, especially in difficult moments: St. Bede, commenting on today’s passage of the Gospel, says that our Lord, in a loving concession allowed Peter, James and John to enjoy for a very short time the contemplation of the happiness that lasts forever, so as to enable them to bear adversity with greater fortitude. (St. Bede, Commentary on St. Mark, 8; 30:1, 3) There is no doubt that the memory of those moments beside our Lord on the mountain helped those apostles through many difficult moments in their lives.
Man’s existence is a journey towards Heaven, our dwelling place. (cf. 2 Cor. 5:2) It is a journey which is, at times, harsh and laborious because we often have to go against the current of opinion and we will have to struggle against many enemies both inside and outside of ourselves. But God wants to strengthen us with the hope of Heaven, in a special way at the more difficult moments or when the weakness of our condition makes itself more felt. At the time of temptation think of the Love that awaits you in Heaven: foster the virtue of Hope - this is not a lack of generosity. (J. Escriva, The Way, 139) There, all is repose, joy and delight; all serenity and calm, all peace, splendor and light. It is not a light such as we enjoy now, and which, compared with that light, is no more than a lamp placed beside the sun… For there, there is no night, or twilight, heat or cold, or any change in one’s way of being, but a state such as can be understood only by those who are worthy to possess it. There, there is no old age, or sickness, or anything allied to corruption, because it is the place and the home of immortal glory.
And above all this the everlasting presence and possession of Christ, of the angels… everyone perpetually of like mind, without any fear of Satan or the snares of the devil or the threats of hell or of death. (St. John Chrysostom, Epistle 1 to Theodore, 11)
Our life in Heaven will definitely be exempt from any possible fear. We will not have the worry of losing what we have, and we will not want to have anything different. Then, truly, we will be able to say with St. Peter, Master, it is well that we are here! The glimpse of glory that the Apostle had will be fully ours in eternal life. W e are going to think about what Heaven will be like. ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man those things that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ Can you imagine what it will be like to arrive there and meet God, to see that beauty, that love which is poured out into our hearts, which satisfies without satiating? I ask myself many times each day,
‘What will it be like when all the beauty, all the goodness, all the infinite wonder of God is poured into this poor earthenware vessel that I am, that all of us are?’ Then I will understand those words of the Apostle, ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard…’ It is worthwhile my children, it is worthwhile. (J. Escriva, quoted in Newsletter No. 1 for the cause of his beatification.)
The thought of the glory that awaits us should act as a spur in our daily struggle. Nothing is of such value as gaining Heaven: and always bearing in mind this determination to die rather than to fail to reach the end of the way, if God ever causes you to suffer from thirst as He guides you through this life, it is because He will give you to drink in plenty in the next life, without any fear of it ever failing you. (St. Teresa, The Way of Perfection, 20, 2)
The Lord does not distance Himself from us. Living in this presence: Immediately a cloud over shadowed them. (cf. Mark 9:7) It reminds us of that other cloud that accompanies the presence of God in the Old Testament: Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Ex. 40:34-35) It was the sign that was the guarantee of Divine Intervention. A nd the Lord said to Moses, ‘Lo, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.’ (Ex. 19:9) Now on Mount Tabor that cloud overshadows Christ, and the powerful voice of God the Father is heard coming from it: This is My Son, my Chosen, listen to Him.
And God the Father speaks through Jesus Christ to all men of all ages. His voice is heard in every age, in a particular way through the teaching of the Church, who, continually seeks ways of bringing this mystery of her Master and Lord to humanity - to the peoples, the nations, the succeeding generations, and every individual human being. (John Paul II, Encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, 7)
And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. (Matt. 17:8) Elijah and Moses were no longer there. They only see Our Lord. They see the Jesus they know, Who is sometimes hungry, sometimes tired, Who tries to make Himself understood. They see Jesus without any special manifestations of glory. It was normal for the Apostles to see our Lord like that: what was exceptional was to see Him transfigured.
This is the Jesus we have to find in our ordinary life, in the mist of our work, out in the street, in the people around us, in our prayer. We have to find Him when He forgives us in the Sacrament of Penance and, above all, in the Holy Eucharist where He is truly, really and substantially present. Normally He does not show Himself to us with any special manifestations. Rather, we have to learn to find Our Lord in what is ordinary, every day, and we must flee from the temptation of ever wanting anything extraordinary. We must never forget that that Jesus Whom those three privileged men were with on Mount Tabor, is the same Jesus Who is daily at our side. W hen God grants you the grace of feeling His presence, and desires that you should speak to Him as your most beloved friend, tell Him about your feelings with all freedom and confidence. ‘She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.’ (Wis. 6:14) Without waiting for you to come close to Him, He hastens towards you when you seek His love, and He presents Himself to you, granting you the graces and remedies that you need. He only waits for one word from you in order to show you that He is beside you and wants to listen to you and console you. ‘His ears are toward their cry’ (Ps. 33:16)… Other friends, those who are friends in the world, have times that they spend talking together and other times when they are separated, but between God and yourselves, if you want, there need never be any time of separation. (St. Alphonsus Liguori, How to Converse Continually and Familiarly with God)
Would our lives not be different this Lent if we were to make this presence of God a reality in the habitual things of each day; if we tried to say more ejaculatory prayers, more acts of love and reparation, more spiritual communions? Here is a point for your daily examination. Have I allowed an hour to pass, without talking with my Father God? Have I talked to Him with the love of a Son?
You can! (J. Escriva, Furrow, 657)” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez)
Through the intercession of Mary, Virgin most Powerful, St. Joseph, St. Michael, and St. Paul, may we all have the grace to consciously practice living in the presence of our Lord!
In Christ through Mary,