The Second Sunday of Lent
16 March 2014
“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear him.” Mt. 17:5
In today’s Gospel (Mt. 17:1-9), we are given a glimpse of the great glory of God in heaven. While His stunned apostles, Peter, James and John look on the transfigured Jesus talks of His coming passion with the Prophet Elias, and the Father of the Law, Moses. It is truly a revelation beyond our earthly comprehension. It is a penetrating (or “rare”) vision of eternity. Jesus reveals the glory of His Divinity as St. John told us in the beginning of his gospel: “And we saw his glory—glory as of the only begotten of the Father—full of grace and truth.” Jn. 1:14. In today’s Epistle (I Thess: 4:1-7) St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that they must continue in a life of holiness: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” I Thess. 4:3 Only those who do God’s will and are holy will enjoy the glory of God in heaven. The message of the Transfiguration is that there will be no glory unless we suffer with Christ who died on Mt. Calvary.
“For God has not called you to uncleanness, but unto holiness.” I Thess. 4:7
In addressing the Thessalonians, St. Paul is aware that they have only been converted for one year, therefore he reminds them not to revert back to their pagan practices of uncleanness; “For this is the will of God, your sanctification that you abstain from immorality; not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God...” I Thess. 4:3 & 5. Only the clean of heart will see God in His glory as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God.” Mt. 5:8
Christ destroys death
Jesus has conquered death by His cross and resurrection. St. Luke alone tells us that Jesus is talking to Moses and Elias about His “death, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.” Lk. 9:31. St. Peter does not seem to understand the need for Jesus to suffer and die, and he wants to build three tents there to prolong the glory of the moment: “It is good for us to be here.” Mt. 17:4 Peter’s wish, of course, is not possible because Jesus has come to suffer and die for our sins. He is doing the Father’s will, and this is why the Father is well-pleased with Him: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased; hear him.” Mt. 17:5 . In this scene, we have a theophany, a revelation of God as the Blessed Trinity: the Son is transfigured in glory, the Father speaks, and the Holy Spirit overshadows them in a cloud (like He overshadowed the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament). What greater confirmation could the apostles have of Jesus’ mission? Pope St. Leo the Great comments on Jesus’ divinity overshadowing Elias and Moses: “He is the one who teaches the truth of prophecy (Elias) through His presence, and makes the obedience to the Commandments (Moses) possible through grace.” Pope St. Leo also tells us that Jesus reveals Himself to the Apostles to remove from them the scandal of the cross which He had revealed to them several days previously when He told them that He would suffer and die and rise from the dead: “…the primary purpose of this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of Christ’s disciples; the greatness of His glory was revealed to them to prevent their faith from being shaken by the self-abasement of the suffering He was voluntarily to undergo.” By showing the apostles His transfigured Body, Jesus would sustain them for His future suffering and death.
The Glory of Jesus’ Human Nature
Dom Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Life, Vol. 5 comments on the dramatic action of the Transfiguration on Mt. Thabor: “He (Jesus) therefore leaves the rest of the disciples in the plain near Nazareth, and goes in company with the three privileged ones towards a high hill called Thabor.... No sooner has He reached the summit of the mountain, than the three apostles observe a sudden change come over Him; His Face shines as the sun, and His humble garments become white as snow. They observe two venerable men approach and speak with Him upon what He is about to suffer in Jerusalem. One is Moses, the lawgiver; the other is Elias, the prophet, who was taken up from the earth on a fiery chariot without having passed through the gates of death. These two great representatives of the Jewish religion, the Law and the Prophets, humbly adore Jesus of Nazareth. The three apostles are not only dazzled by the brightness which comes from their divine Master; but they are filled with such a rapture of delight, that they cannot bear the thought of leaving the place. Peter proposes to remain there forever and build three tabernacles, for Jesus, Moses and Elias. And while they are admiring the glorious sight, and gazing on the beauty of their Jesus’ human Nature, a bright cloud overshadows them, and a voice is heard speaking to them: it is the voice of the eternal Father, proclaiming the Divinity of Jesus, and saying: ‘This is My beloved Son!’
“This transfiguration of the Son of Man, this manifestation of His glory, lasted but a few moments: His mission was not on Thabor; it was humiliation and suffering in Jerusalem.” Gueranger, p. 187-9
Suffer for Christ
Like Jesus, we also have to carry our cross in this life. Rather than remain joyful and glorious on Mt. Thabor as the three apostles had desired, we have to suffer with Jesus on Mt. Calvary. St. Paul tells of Jesus’ great joy in carrying His cross: “…Jesus, who for joy set before him, endured a cross, despising shame.” Heb. 12:2 For Jesus, the cross is not shameful or scandalous. It is His glory for He obeys His Father and shows His great love for us. He could have redeemed us with a prayer, a sigh, a tear, a word…, but He preferred to suffer an ignominious death on the cross: “Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Jn. 15:13 This is why St. Teresa loved the picture of the suffering and thorned-crown Christ. This is why she said, “Lord, let me suffer or die.” St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi said, “Lord, don’t let me die, but suffer!” St. John of the Cross wanted the favour of suffering and being despised for Christ: “I wish to suffer and be despised for you!” Cardinal Mercier, in the early part of the 20th century, refused a needle to ease his pain: “No, I will never allow this, because our Lord did not have that when He was in His agonizing pain.” This is the language of the saints.
Hope for heaven
St. Bede, the great English monk, in commenting on this passage of the Gospel tells us 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.” Commentary on St. Mark, 8:30; Mk 1,3) St. John Chrysostom tells us that we, in time of temptation and difficulty, should think of our heavenly glory: “(There), all is repose, joy and delight; all serenity and calm, all peace, splendour and light. It is not a light such as we enjoy now, and which, compared to that 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 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 death.” (Epistle to Theodore, 11)
“…regaining lost joy...”
If we want to regain some of the lost joy that we should have in this world when we think of our heavenly home then we need to make a good confession of ours sins. Pope John Paul in his Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliation and Penance, (2 December, 1984, 31, III) tells us that every contrite confession is “a drawing near to the holiness of God, a rediscovery of one’s true identity, which has been upset and disturbed by sin, a liberation in the very depths of one’s self and thus a regaining of lost joy, the joy of being saved, which the majority of people in our time are no longer capable of experiencing.”
“Could you not, then, watch one hour with Me?” Mt. 26:40
St. Thomas Aquinas tells us how very special the Holy Eucharist is: “O precious wonderful banquet that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness......No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it, sins are purged away, virtues are increased and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift.” “Could you not, then, watch one hour with Me?” Mt. 26:40
Why the Rosary is so important!
“Continue to pray the Rosary every day.”
Our Lady of Fatima to Sister Lucia
“Never will anyone who says his Rosary every day be led astray. This is a statement that I would gladly sign with my blood.”
Saint Louis de Montfort
“You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.”
Our Lady to Blessed Alan de la Roche
“Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” Pope Blessed Pius IX
“If you persevere in reciting the Rosary, this will be a most probable sign of your eternal salvation.” Blessed Alan de la Roche
“The greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.” Saint Francis de Sales
“When the Holy Rosary is said well, it gives Jesus and Mary more glory and is more meritorious than any other prayer.”
Saint Louis de Montfort
“If you say the Rosary faithfully unto death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins, ‘you will receive a never-fading crown of glory’ (1 St. Peter 5:4).” Saint Louis de Montfort