20 March 2011. 2nd Sunday of Lent
Gen 12:1-4; Psalm 33; 2 Tim 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9
Note: This is a scheduled post. Every article published in this blog has been written long before the 11th of March 2011, the beginning of my 30-day retreat. The rest will come out at the date and time I have programmed it in blogger. A big favor to ask: please pray for 8 Jesuits, including myself, doing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. My prayers also for all of you who have sustained me and encouraged me to blog since 2005.
Last Sunday, the first sunday of Lent, we heard of the temptations of Jesus. We were encouraged to do likewise, to overcome our temptations in our lives. But we know now, that it is not easy to refuse the offers of Satan. It is even difficult to be aware of some temptations, much more so, it is challenging to refuse the evil spirit’s various seductions. Our lives witness to many failures in this difficult task, by the repetitive and ‘favorite’ sins we confess at the Sacraments.
Today, the Gospel about the Transfiguration of Jesus gives us the hope and encouragement we need to continue on our journey. Pilgrims will find it very difficult to move on if they don’t know where their going. By persevering in overcoming temptations and enduring our sufferings, we hope to transfigure our lives by the grace of our Lord.
Before the Transfiguration, our Lord predicts his passion and death. Matthew says, “From then on, Jesus started to indicate to his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly there at the hands of the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be put to death, and raised up on the third day” (16:21). This shocked the disciples because it is different from their concept of the Messiah who was thought to be like a victorious king, as David, who will liberate Israel from the oppression of Rome. And therefore, in the minds of the disciples and the people, for the Messiah to be handed over to the Gentiles for punishment is a total disgrace and destruction of what they popularly thought a Messiah to be.
And so, the disciples needed an assurance in the future that He is indeed the Messiah, the Son of God, though not in their frame of mind, but in the mold of the mind of God. By witnessing to the Transfiguration, they are assured that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. They are witnesses to the glory of the Divine and Human Jesus as they have seen the face of Christ shine like the sun (Matthew 17:2) and the clothes of Christ are as bright as light (Matthew 17:3). After the event of the Transfiguration, the Apostles gave testimony of its truth to others (Matthew 17:9).
What is the effect of the Transfiguration to the Apostles? It simply become the cause of their hope in Christ. Thus the memory of the Transfiguration sustains the Apostles in the darkest moments of Christ’s suffering and death, and their own pains and sorrows in their future mission. In addition, it confirms who really is Jesus. Peter’s answer, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16) is confirmed by the Transfiguration.
In our lives today, the Transfiguration brings us hope. By trusting in the word of the disciples who were the witnesses and the Word of God in Scripture, we know that our faith in Jesus is true. This is important when there are many anti-Christ or anti-Christianity movements (though some parade themselves as pro-humanity). They may not deny Christ, but water down or deny His Divinity. Thus, the Transfiguration gives us hope that indeed there is meaning and importance in our struggle to overcome temptations and enduring our sufferings.
Second, it tells us that our suffering for Christ in our lives is a participation in His sufferings. We sometimes tell ourselves that we offer whatever we endure in trying to become a good Christian to the Lord. We now know that suffering is the path to glory. That our efforts at studying is the sure path to success. That our travails of our work for our family or our future is the way to a secure future. That the cross that comes in our loving leads towards the resurrection. St. Paul said, “I consider the sufferings of the present to be as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).
Finally, the Transfiguration becomes our goal in our pilgrimage here on earth, therefore it becomes the destination in our lives. A person on a journey is given much encouragement when we know where we are going. The same thing in every endeavor that we do: if we know the why of every single project or work, we are inspired to exert greater effort when we grow tired and weary. A student who walks in life with a purpose will find studying meaningful than a someone without a goal.
The same things when we practice virtue. In the Season of Lent, when we grow tired and discouraged in being good or in trying to live a true Christian life, it would be profitable to reflect on the Transfiguration. Here we know that to be a Christian means to be transfigure into the likeness of Christ, as Genesis reminds us, that we are made in God’s image and likeness.
And so today, gaze on the Lord who is Transfigured and never to turn your eyes away from Jesus, the Son of God. St. Paul urges us to live in hope when he says, “And this hope will not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).
Live in hope. Listen to Him (Matt. 17:5).