Gn 15:5-12, 17-18; Ps. 27; Phil. 3:17-4:1; Lk. 9:28b-36
(Audio recorded live, 12 March 2022)
Last week we heard of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. This week, we hear of his transfiguration before the disciples. These two passages present to us a question and an answer. From Jesus’ temptation, the devil says repeatedly, “If you are the Son of God,” which really poses the question: Is Jesus the Son of God? The way Jesus answers these questions shows us his mastery of Scripture, but also his identity, especially when he says, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Jesus uses Scripture to answer the question, putting the devil to flight. Today’s passage about the transfiguration of Jesus provides us with a much more explicit answer. As Jesus is transfigured before the disciples, they see him in his glory, which is entrusted to them as proof of his divinity, and therefore his relationship to the Father, who speaks from the cloud saying, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” We are now met with a command from God to listen to Jesus. So, let us reflect on this notion of listening.
In the first reading, we hear about the covenant God enters into with Abram, who was a wandering Aramean from the city of Ur of the Chaldeans, that is Babylon. Abram was called out of Babylon so that the Lord may give him the land as a possession. Before the Exodus from Egypt, Abram made his own exodus from Babylon. He did so through an act of faith. God respects our freedom to choose, and since Abram responded in faith, it was attributed to him as righteousness. Because he listened to the prompting of God, he inherited the land.
Part of receiving any inheritance is patience, and while Abram struggled with patience, he finally had a son, Isaac, the first of many descendants, as numerous as the stars in the sky. Our psalmist beckons us to, “Wait for the Lord with courage, be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.” It is good for us to hear these passages because they strengthen our own patient endurance until the coming of the Day of the Lord. And Lent is the perfect season to exercise the virtue of patience. How often have we been losing patience with others? How often have we been losing patience with ourselves? Perhaps we might focus on ways we can exercise this powerful virtue over the next week. Whenever we are tested, remember to breathe deep, count to ten, say a prayer, and let ourselves be transfigured before others.
St. Paul talks about our own transformation at the time of Jesus’ return in glory. At that time, he will “change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.” In other words, we will be transfigured too. But, while it may seem that Jesus is delayed in returning, I would like us to consider that we need not wait for his return to be transformed by his grace. He is constantly listening and answering our prayers, and the graces we receive help us to conform our lives more and more after his, so that we, each in our own way, may be the face of Jesus, the heart of Jesus, the love of Jesus, in the world even now. We are citizens of heaven, and we have a duty to act like it.
Our gospel passage today about the transfiguration of Jesus is a mysterious one. There is a lot of imagery: Jesus’ own change in appearance, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, the response of Peter and the other disciples, the voice of God from the cloud. Suffice it to say, these are all a glimpse of heaven on earth. The cloud is reminiscent of the Shekinah, which was the cloud of God’s presence in the Tabernacle, which remained with the Israelites for forty years in the desert; the transfiguration of Jesus is a sign of his divinity; the presence of Moses and Elijah are a sign of those prophets who helped make way for the coming of the Lord; the disciples seek to build tents, to honor these guests, but also as a reminder of the tabernacle in the desert; but, the voice of God says all, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” No longer will the disciples solely pay heed to the Law or the prophets, rather, they will listen directly to the voice of the Son.
How about us? How is our listening? There is a difference between listening and hearing. We hear noise everywhere we go. Noise on the road, noise in the house, noise on TV, but are we listening to the one in front of us? We are all driven to distraction, and much of that distraction has to do with things we hear, with noise. Can we shut it out for the sake of those around us? Are we really listening to one another or are we simply reacting to one another’s noise? If we can’t listen to the one standing in front of us, how can we listen to the voice of Jesus, whispering in our heart? Now is a time of listening. The Synod is a time of listening. The Church is in a time of listening. So, let us listen more intently, so we may act and respond in love for the good of others, as holy citizens of heaven.