Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Transfiguration, 11th Sunday After Pentecost
Volume 8 No. 492 August 3, 2018
IV. Featured Articles on Transfiguration

Learning to See - A Homily for the Feast of the Transfiguration

by Msgr. Charles Pope

The Feast of the Transfiguration is ultimately about vision. The Lord brought Peter, James, and John up a high mountain in order that they might come to see. Even the word that describes this day bespeaks vision. It is from the Latin transfiguratione. Trans means "across," and by extension, "change." Figura means "shape" or "form." The suffix -ation creates a noun from the underlying verb. Putting it all together, transfiguration was the process by which Christ changed form or appearance. He gave them a glimpse of His true glory. He allowed them to see across (trans) to the other shore, to the true glory of Christ.

So the Feast of the Transfiguration is about vision. Have you seen the glory of Christ? Have you glimpsed God's glory? Have you looked across to the other shore? It is essential for us to have this experience, otherwise the discouragements and disappointments of life can easily overwhelm us. Only when we glimpse the glory and experience the joy of God can we truly say that our sufferings are more than worth it, that the sufferings of this world cannot be compared to the glory that awaits (Rom 8:18), that our momentary afflictions are producing for us a weight of eternal glory beyond compare (2 Cor 4:17). Have you glimpsed the glory of God? Is this something you even expect to experience? We ought to ask for this wondrous gift because it is essential for us.

Now of course heavenly visions are not something we order as we would a pizza. Although we can and must ask God for this vision, we must also understand that there are things God does to give us this vision, to make this vision grow and sharpen. Notice in the Gospel for today's Mass that there are four basic ways in which God ushers in this vision, clarifies it, grants it, and helps it to grow:


Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up a mountain to pray. The other Gospels describe this as a "high" mountain.

Tradition designates Mt. Tabor as the place of the Transfiguration. This is no small hill; it is quite a climb to the top! After the long drive to the top in a bus with a special transmission designed for the climb, the view of the Jezreel Valley is like what you would see from an airplane. It probably took the four of them a day—maybe two—to get to the top on foot. They must have been hardy men to make such a climb; they probably had to carry water and other provisions up with them as well.

The point is that the vision they experience comes only after a difficult climb. In our own life, suffering and difficulties usually bring about new vision, open new vistas, and bring deeper understanding. Suffering is not something we enjoy, to be sure, but it is part of the climb.

There is an old gospel song that says, "I'm coming up on the rough side of the mountain!" The paradox announced by the song is that it is easier to climb on the rough side of the mountain; that's where progress is possible. The smooth side provides little footing and is more dangerous. Although we like a smooth and pleasant life, it actually makes for a more dangerous climb. At the top there is a vision to be had, but to get us there the Lord often makes us climb up the rough side of the mountain. This is what it often takes to give us vision.


While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

I have chosen the word "clarification" to do double duty here. On the one hand it refers to brilliant glory shining forth from Christ; the Latin clarus means "bright" and hence clarification refers to Jesus' shining splendor. I also use the word in the more common sense of making things clear.

Notice that Moses and Elijah are present and conversing with the Lord. While they are historical persons, they also represent the Law and the Prophets. In other words, they represent Scripture.

Part of what the Lord needs to do for us in order to give us heavenly vision is to teach us His Word. As we grow in knowledge of Scripture, our vision grows, our understanding deepens, and we see things differently. Immersion in the Scriptures disposes us for heavenly vision. Notice also how Moses and Elijah (personifying Scripture) give the vision for what Christ is about to do in His final journey to Jerusalem. The vision is of a new Exodus. Just as Moses led the ancient people out of slavery in Egypt by the Blood of the Lamb at Passover and the parted waters (baptism) of the Red Sea, so now Jesus would lead His people out (an exodus) from slavery and sin by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus is the Lamb of God) and the baptismal waters flowing from His parted and pierced side.

Do you see what Scripture does? It gives us vision. It sheds light on the meaning of our life. Scripture is our story. It shows again and again that God can make a way out of no way, that He can do anything but fail. Do you want to see the heavens open and the glory of God be revealed? Then immerse yourself in Scripture. Through Scripture, God clarifies all things.


Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." But he did not know what he was saying.

Now comes the vision! Throughout the difficult climb and suffering, and through immersion in His word, God often grants us this vision. When we see His glory we become fully awake. So great is this glory that Peter, James, and John do not know what to say! Those who have every really experienced a glimpse of God's glory know that it cannot be reduced to words. It is ineffable, unsayable, unspeakable! There is an old saying: "Those who know, do not say. Those who say, do not know." Peter is babbling at this point and suggests building booths or tents to capture this glory. He probably had in mind the Feast of Booths, wherein the Jewish people remembered the great Exodus, the time in the desert, and the giving of the Law. It was one of the great festivals of the year. Hence Peter's suggestion is a way of saying, "Let's celebrate this! Let's extend the time in a week-long feast!" But Peter needs to understand that this is but a brief glimpse. There are still troubles ahead and another mountain to climb (Golgotha). For now, though the vision is wonderful.

So, too, for us who are privileged to get a glimpse of glory. It does not mean that we are fully in Heaven yet. For, us, too there are other mountains to climb and valleys to cross. But oh, the glimpse of glory; do not forget it! Let it sustain you in difficult times as it must have sustained Jesus in His passion.


While [Peter] was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my chosen Son; listen to him."

Now comes the great glory cloud (the shekinah) that overshadows them. This vision has been wonderful, but God has more than bright lights to show them. The vision He confers gives direction as well as light. His direction is clear: Listen to my Son. Not only does this instruction complete the vision but it also ensures greater vision in the future.

If we obey Jesus Christ, we will see greater and greater things (Jn 1:50). If we follow Him, He will lead us to the light and we will see all things by it. Note this, though: where Jesus leads is not always easy. In order to obey the Father's command that they listen to Jesus, they are going to have to accept Christ's instruction that they follow Him to Jerusalem and the cross. Only in this way will they see all things by the light of Easter glory.

Do you want to see? Then be willing to make the climb with Jesus. He gives us vision if we climb. He gives us vision if we are immersed in His Word, which is Scripture and Church teaching. If we but take up our cross and follow Him through His passion, death, and resurrection, His greatest vision lies ahead for us. Happy Feast of the Transfiguration! May God grant us vision.

Source: Archdiocese of Washington

The Transfiguration--and Exodus--of Our Lord

by The Rev. Charles Henrickson

Gospel: Luke 9:28-36

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah"--not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!" And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
Luke 9:28-36 (ESV)

Today is the Transfiguration of Our Lord. We have seen Christ's glory as the incarnate Son of God being manifested throughout the Epiphany season, beginning with the visit of the wise men on Epiphany itself. At the Baptism of Our Lord, Christ's messiahship was attested and affirmed by the Holy Spirit descending on him in the form of a dove and the voice of the Father coming from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." Then we saw Jesus at the wedding at Cana, providing new wine, the best wine, for the new covenant he was establishing. In the Nazareth synagogue, Jesus read a prophecy of the Messiah to come and declared, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." And in his ministry we have seen Jesus doing just that--proclaiming good news, setting at liberty those who are oppressed.

Now today the season reaches its climax. It is the Transfiguration of Our Lord, that momentous occasion when Jesus was manifested in his glory as God's Son before his disciples Peter, James, and John. Moses and Elijah show up, to make clear that Jesus is the one they were pointing ahead to. And once again the voice of the Father comes, "This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!" Truly a mountaintop experience!

But today I want you to notice that this is not only about the transfiguration of our Lord, it is also about his exodus. Don't worry, I'll explain. And we'll also see how this all relates to us. And so our theme this morning: "The Transfiguration--and Exodus--of Our Lord."

Our text is the Holy Gospel for this day, from Luke chapter 9. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this event of Christ's transfiguration. And there are many things in common among the three accounts, obviously. It's the same basic story. But each one may have a distinctive way to describe something or bring in a detail that the other accounts do not have. Such is the case today with Luke's narrative. All of the accounts tell us that the Old Testament figures Moses and Elijah were standing alongside Jesus and talking with him. But only Luke tells us what they were talking about. And that is where we get to this matter of the exodus--Christ's exodus.

Now when we hear the word "exodus," we naturally think of Moses, and rightly so. We even call the second book of Moses "Exodus," because that is where we read about the exodus event. The exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt, brought about by the Lord God, under the leadership of Moses--this is really the "big story" of the whole Old Testament. It's God's signature act of deliverance, in Israel's history, to bring his people out of slavery in Egypt and up into the Promised Land.

"So what does this have to do with the Transfiguration and with Jesus and with his supposed 'exodus'? I don't see the word 'exodus' anywhere in this text." Oh, yes, you do. It's just that it's hidden under the English. We saw where it says, "And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory." OK, so far, so good. Nothing new here, nothing different from what we find in Matthew or Mark. But then Luke adds this detail, telling us what Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus about. It's in verse 31, where it says that they "spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem."

"They spoke of his departure." Guess what the Greek word is here for "departure"? That's right, you guessed it: "exodus." Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus about his "exodus," that is, his "departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem."

Now what kind of sense does that make? How is Jesus going to accomplish an "exodus"? What does it mean by "his departure"? And what does that mean for us?

Well, the word "exodus" literally means "the way out." Moses led the children of Israel on the way out of their slavery in Egypt. And if we look at the story of that exodus, that way out, we will begin to understand how Jesus would accomplish an even greater exodus, for us.

OK, so the people of Israel were in slavery, in bondage. And they couldn't get out. Pharaoh and the Egyptians had control over them. There was no escape, no way out.

This is parallel to our situation. We were in bondage, in slavery, slaves to sin and death and the devil. Satan had control of us. We were in his domain. And there was no way out. We were trapped, stuck in our sins, lost and condemned sinners, with only the grave and hell waiting before us. And so it would remain, unless God would intervene.

The Lord God did intervene with the Israelites. God in his mercy remembered his covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And he came down and visited his people to redeem them, to set them free. He called Moses to do the job.

In an even greater way, God sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, to do the redeeming, setting-free job, not just for Israel, but for the whole world. Our Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven for us men and for our salvation. He is the one greater than Moses, anointed and appointed to do an even greater work. "This is my Son, my Chosen One," the Father says of him.

Now how would this redeeming work be done? How would the setting free be accomplished? With Israel, it happened with the Passover. After a series of plagues, the Lord finally sent the angel of death throughout Egypt, to strike down the firstborn in every home. And the homes of the Israelites would not have been spared, except for one thing. The Lord provided a way of escape, a way for death to pass over their homes. God told Moses to tell the Israelites to take a lamb without blemish and to sacrifice it and to spread the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their homes, as a sign for death to pass over. And so it was.

In a far surpassing way, Jesus himself is the Passover lamb by which our lives are spared. His holy blood marks us as those spared from death. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice, without any spot or blemish of sin. And yet he dies in our place, shedding his blood on the wood of the cross, marking us as forgiven. God sees Christ's holy blood, and death passes over.

The plague of the death of the firstborn of Egypt was the reason Pharaoh finally let the Lord's people go. He was defeated. His power was shattered. His grip and hold on the people had come to an end.

So it is for us. Christ's death spelled the end of Satan's power over us. The devil has lost his grip and hold on us.

Now we have a way out. Just as Israel came out of Egypt and passed through the water of the Red Sea safely, so we have come out of the devil's domain and passed through the waters of Holy Baptism. God has acted to save us. We have been baptized into Christ, and he will lead us forward to the Promised Land of eternal life in heaven.

And on the way, Jesus will lead us and feed us, he will guard and guide us, he will intercede for us and forgive our sins, and he will bring us safely to our destination. Moses led Israel to Mount Sinai, where the Lord gave his people a way of life, to live as his holy people. He gave Israel the tabernacle, the place of his dwelling, where sinners could come to have their sins forgiven. The pillar of cloud led the way forward on the way to the Promised Land. And the Lord provided manna in the wilderness, to feed the people on their way.

So also Jesus does for us. We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that we would live as God's holy people, a people set apart to do his will. The Lord has provided the means of grace, Word and Sacrament, so that, our sins would be forgiven when we stumble and fall. Jesus is interceding for us, praying for us, watching over us. He wants us to make it home safely. Jesus feeds us with his very own body and blood, to strengthen and nourish us, in faith toward God and in fervent love toward one another. The Lord's Supper is our "waybread" to strengthen us on our journey. God's word guides us on our way, points us in the right direction. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."

Do you see? All of what God did in the exodus for Israel, he does in an even greater way in the exodus that Jesus accomplishes, for us, in Jerusalem. Christ goes there, to Jerusalem, to bring it about. The journey intensifies from this point on, from the time of his transfiguration. For right from this point, Jesus will set his face to go to Jerusalem. That is the Lenten journey we are about to take with Jesus over the coming weeks. It will take us to Jerusalem, to Holy Week, where and when Jesus will accomplish this amazing exodus. In his death and resurrection, in his ascension and his return to the Father, Jesus accomplishes it. All of it, to lead us out of our Egypt and on into the Promised Land.

Dear friends, Jesus is our exodus. He is our way out, the way out of death and sin and the devil's grip. Jesus is our way to, the way to the Father, the way, the truth, and the life. The way leads through the cross, but we know that it leads to glory. And the festival we are celebrating today, the Transfiguration of Our Lord, shows us that it is indeed God's own Son who is accomplishing this exodus for us. "This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!"

Trials to Transfiguration

by Msgr. Charles Pope

What is it that gives hope, peace, and serene joy to the Christian life? Briefly, it is the vision of glory, a glimpse into the Promised Land of Heaven, which the Lord can and does give to His people. Today's Gospel shows forth a kind of process through which the Lord lays the foundations of hope, peace, and joy.

The Paradoxical Prelude – The text says, Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. Note that in order to get them to a place where they can see glory, the Lord must first lead them "up a high mountain."

It's easy to pass over this fact: they had to climb that mountain. Anyone who has been to the site of Tabor can appreciate just how difficult a climb it is, almost 2000 feet and steep as well. It takes the better part of a day and the climb might well have been more dangerous back then. Once at the top, one feels as if one is looking from an airplane window out on the Jezreel Valley (a.k.a. Megiddo or Armageddon). So Tabor is a symbol of the cross and of struggle. It was a difficult, exhausting climb for Peter, James, and John and it tested their strength.

I have it on the best of authority that as they climbed they were singing gospel songs like these: "I'm comin' up on the rough side of the mountain, and I'm doin' my best to carry on!"; "My soul looks back and wonders how I got over!"; "We are climbing Jacob's ladder, every round goes higher, higher."

This climb should remind us of our life here on this earth. We've often had to climb, to endure; we've had our strength tested. Perhaps it was the climb of earning a college degree, or raising children, or building a career. What do you have that you really value that did not come at the price of a climb, of effort, of struggle? Most of us know that although the climb is difficult, there is glory at the top. We have to endure, to push through. Life's difficulties are often the prelude to success and greater strength.

Herein lies the paradox: peace, joy, and hope are often the products of struggles, climbs, and difficulties. These things are often the prelude to seeing and experiencing glory. Scripture says,

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady (Romans 5:3-4).

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These trials are only to test your faith, to see whether or not it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests gold and purifies it—and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold; so if your faith remains strong after being tried in the test tube of fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day of his return (1 Peter 1:6).

Yes, there is a paradoxical prelude to glory and it can only come through God's wisdom—human beings just don't think this way. An old hymn says,

"Trials dark on every hand. And we cannot understand, all the ways that God will lead us to that blessed promised land. But he guides us with his eye and we follow till we die and we'll understand it better by and by."

The Practices Portrayed – The text lays out various aspects of how Peter, James, and John come to experience a joyful peace in the presence of the Lord's glory. The text says, And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." There are three things Peter, James, and John do that enable them to come to this joyful peace:

1. They see. The text speaks first of the event itself that they see. It uses a word that says the Lord was transfigured (μετεμορφώθη (metemorphothe)), that His appearance was gloriously altered. While common in the Christian vocabulary, this word is in many ways mysterious and difficult to understand. The text supplies some information, telling us of a brightness that shone through the Lord, a kind of dazzling light.

But we ought not get lost in speculation and miss the point: that Peter, James, and John are given a glorious vision, beams of Heaven! Yes, this is Jesus. This is who He really is. The magnificence of His glory so astounds them that they fall down in reverence.

Have you ever seen or experienced glory? Maybe it was at the birth of a child, or upon hearing some other wonderful news. Perhaps it was a profound experience of relief, or a deep vision in prayer, or at the Liturgy. Yes, look for glory and rejoice when it comes!

We must learn to see things as they really are. Regardless of the trials and struggles, we must endure on the way. If we are faithful our end is glory.

So look for glory and expect to find it. The Lord can and does give us glimpses of glory in our life, beams of Heaven as we go! Do not minimize glories when they are revealed. Cultivate a spirit of wonder and awe at what God has done and continues to do in creation and in your life. Glory is all around us. Learning to see this glory is one of the ways God produces peace in us.

2. They are scriptural. Notice that the text says that Moses and Elijah appeared with Him. Why Moses and Elijah? Because Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets, which is a Jewish way of speaking of the Bible. Thus another way of having peace produced in us is to search the Scriptures. The other day, I "cheated" and looked at the last page of the Bible. I know, we are not there yet, but I looked anyway. Guess what it says? It says that Jesus wins and so does everyone who is with Him. We have to stay rooted in our story. If we stay with Jesus, glory is at the end of our story. Know your Scriptures and thereby know your story, a story that ends with glory.

3. They savor. Peter wants to stay on the mountaintop, to pitch tents and stay put. Some preachers give him a hard time for this, but I see it as a good thing, even if a bit excessive. The point is to savor glory, to store good memories and experiences deep in our soul, to cultivate a deep gratitude for the wonderful things the Lord has done for us, to savor deeply our experiences of glory.

The Prescription Proclaimed – The text then says, Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.

The prescription couldn't be simpler and yet how poorly we often follow it. Listen to Jesus! In other words, carefully ponder every word of His teaching and begin to base your life on what He says.

How much pain, anxiety, and strife come into this world and our lives simply because we do not listen to the Lord and obey His teachings! Our stubbornness, our lack of forgiveness, our unchastity, our greed, our lack of concern for the poor, our idolatry, our lack of spirituality, and the fact that we are often just plain mean, bring enormous suffering to us and to others.

If we would but give our life to the Lord and ask Him to conform us to His word, so much suffering would vanish. We would have so much more peace and would experience greater joy and hope.

Listen to Jesus and by His grace conform your life to what you hear Him say. There is no greater source for joy, peace, and hope.

The Persevering Purpose – The text says, As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

There is fairly universal agreement that the purpose of this mountaintop experience of glory was to prepare the apostles for the difficult days ahead. Thus, while Jesus tells them to keep it to themselves, He wanted them to keep it, to remember it. Having seen and savored glory, having "seen what the end shall be," having been bathed in beams of Heaven, they need to keep the memory alive and remember who Jesus is as the Passion begins. If they do this, they will be able to endure the folly and suffering of the cross.

Did they successfully persevere in keeping the memory alive? Only John made it to the foot of the cross, but one out of three isn't so bad. Having experienced peace and joy, and having seen the Lord's glory, John made it to the cross, enduring its shame and remembering the glory he had seen.

What about you? Have you seen the glory of the Lord? Have you experienced His love and glory deeply enough that, when difficulties come, you don't allow them to overwhelm you? Have you come to experience and possess a peace and joy that the world did not give and hence cannot take away? Have you allowed the Lord to lay a foundation of hope in your life? Have you let Him take you up the mountain and show you glory? Have you seen the promised land and have you seen what the end shall be? This is what this Gospel describes and promises.

There is an old hymn by Charles Tindley that says,

"Beams of Heaven, as I go,
Through this wilderness below
Guide my feet in peaceful ways
Turn my midnights into days

When in the darkness I would grope
Faith always sees a star of hope
And soon from all life's grief and danger
I shall be free someday."

Notice what it is that gets us through: beams of Heaven!

Yes, it was those same beams of Heaven that Peter, James, and John saw on the mountaintop. Those beams, having been experienced and remembered, shine on every darkness and show the way. Those beams of Heaven give us hope and turn our midnight into day. Let the Lord show you His glory. Savor every moment and never forget what the Lord has done for you. The light of His Glory will light every way.

The hymn goes on to say,

"Burdens now may crush me down
Disappointments all around
Troubles speak in mournful sigh
Sorrow through a tear stained eye

There is a world where pleasure reigns
No mourning soul shall roam its plains
And to that land of peace and glory
I want to go some day."

Source: Archdiocese of Washington

Love, Suffering and the Transfiguration

By Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

The love with which God embraces each of us is one of the great truths revealed in to us throughout salvation history, but especially through and in Jesus Christ. To come to better understand this love, we are continually invited by God into a deeper communion of prayer with Him… to come to know Him as He is.

God, the Father loves so perfectly that His spoken word is eternally life-giving… He speaks with such love that his Word is eternally a Person… His Word is God, the Son.

The love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father is so life-giving and so perfect, that from it proceeds from all eternity a Person… the Holy Spirit.

The Blessed Trinity is a communion of love… a communion of persons – one God, yet three divine persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Man and woman are created in this image – the Image of God. We too are called to a life of love – principally a communion of love within the family.

This love is the love of a covenant… In a covenant, we exchange persons, not things, goods or services.

So what exactly is this "covenant" love? Love, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is "willing the good of the other as other."

Love is the giving of everything by one for the other… being willing to sacrifice one's strength to bear up another's weakness… and to do so without expectation of what's in it for me. It is selfless, unconditional and outward looking. It is life-giving.

This is sacred love. And in a fallen world, such love always entails suffering because we are not perfect.

We lost knowledge of this love through Original Sin. Ever since, God has been fathering his people, preparing us to both know and live this truth again.

To some degree, we retained a desire for this love… a desire for God. He has continually called us to communion with Him. But, we have often misdirected our desire for God's love to be a desire for things – even treating other persons as things or objects of our desire. But, true love never treats persons as things! And true love never mistakes the created for the Creator!

God's plan to repair our broken notions of love – His plan for our redemption – involved His series of ever-expanding covenants of love between Himself and His people.

In today's first reading, we see the beginning of the establishment of His Covenant with Abram, soon to be renamed, Abraham. And because love in a fallen world entails suffering, we see it enacted by the ritual walking by the parties to the covenant between the two halves of sacrificed animals. Abram and God walked between the severed halves.

Although God and Abram enjoyed a relationship, mankind was not ready to see God as He is… was not ready to be fully restored. That is why we see God symbolically represented by the smoke of the firepot and the light of the torch.

God was calling man and woman to relationship, but God was still necessarily distant. In our fallen state, we were not yet ready. These early covenants were beginnings, not ends.

When the time was fulfilled, God entered our history and became Man. There are two places in the Gospels where we hear the voice of God, the Father – the first is at the Baptism of the Lord and the second is at the Transfiguration, which we hear about in today's Gospel. Also present at both of these events is the manifestation of the Blessed Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Jesus, along with His closest disciples, Peter, James and John, climb up a mountain to pray and the disciples witness the Transfiguration of the Lord. They first see Jesus with Moses and Elijah. These latter two represent the entirety of the Old Testament Law and Prophets. Their time is passed and it is now the time of Jesus, the Son of God, who will mediate the New (and everlasting) Covenant.

Peter, James and John witness, for just a little while, the glory of Christ's Divinity shine forth in His humanity. Abram saw God in the symbols of a cloud of smoke and fire, but, they see God, not in the symbol of a torch, but in His Incarnated person. God is no longer distant – He is near. Yet this is not the end. The cloud that descends symbolizes both God the Holy Spirit and mystery.

Just as we learned a few weeks ago that the Baptism of the Lord anticipates the Passion and Death of Christ on the Cross, so too does the Transfiguration. In our broken world, love will entail suffering… as Christ suffers, so too will we suffer.

But, God is with us in good times and in times of suffering. Redemption leads through the Cross – for Christ and for us; for the Redeemer and the redeemed.

Peter and the others were frightened. Peter likely wanted to preserve and extend this time of seeing God as He is. But Christ essentially said, "Not yet, there is more to accomplish." Remember, just before the Transfiguration, Jesus predicted His Passion and Death. He laid out the conditions of discipleship – "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23).

We need to reflect on all that God is accomplishing in us through Christ Jesus.

We need to cast off our disordered attachments to and desires for things and instead love Him and one another unconditionally, no matter the suffering that is sure to follow in this fallen world.

We need to remember that no matter what our feelings say to the contrary, Jesus, Who suffered for us, is with us in our suffering. He is with us especially when we offer our suffering, along with His Passion, during Mass and receive Him in Holy Communion. For at Mass, He renews His New Covenant with us and draws us ever closer to Himself.

And here is the other mystery anticipated by the Transfiguration… if we surrender in trust to Jesus, we will be transformed and eventually perfected in Him.

Source: Into the deep

Into the Deep by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™.

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life™. A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization. ...


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