Fr. Paul Ward
Sat., & Sun., March 11 & 12, 2017
2nd Sunday of Lent, A
Transfiguration: Preparation for the Resurrection
On the second Sunday
of Lent, the Church always stops to meditate on the
Transfiguration of our Lord. And so will we today. Let
us put aside some topics we have been working on all
year: the 100th year of Fatima, the 500th
year of the Protestant revolt, and our daily Mass
meditations on the books of Maccabees: themes to which
we will return in due time, more refreshed.
Before entering into the cloud on Tabor, let’s just
keep a handle on the matters of parish life. [Parish
mission. Stations. Fish fries. Works of charity, esp.
SVdP. Trailblazers. Mini-retreats on 18th and
25th and 1st. Altar boy
rehearsals. Exams for the sacraments will start soon.]
The Transfiguration is not an easy mystery for
meditation. But it comes up twice in the liturgy, once
now, and once in August, and is part of the luminous
mysteries, so we bump into it again and again. I have
proposed meditations in the past upon the
Transfiguration highlighting various aspects, for
example, how it is related to some parts of the Mass,
the aspect of the “exodus” of Jesus as mentioned in
Luke, and more recently at the weekday Masses we saw how
Judas Maccabeus had something like a Transfiguration
experience shortly before his own death. Notice also
that both today and Aug. 6 have their own prefaces,
which also provide material for meditation.
For today, I wish to underscore how the
Transfiguration was a preparation for the resurrection
of Christ, and from such a brief and simple meditation,
we can all cultivate the spirit of hope.
We begin with the cloud. The cloud in scripture is
seen as a sign of the presence of God. There was the
cloud of smoke on Sinai when God descended upon it to
give the law to Moses. When Solomon consecrated the
temple, there was great and unexplainable smoke so that
the priests had to rush out of the temple. Something
similar happened at the reconsecration of the temple in
the Maccabees. These are a sampling of episodes in the
scriptures where God’s presence is indicated by a cloud
– a cloud in which a thing cannot be seen, an instrument
of mystery, a cloak of holy unknowing.
From this cloud the voice of the Father came to all
men, proclaiming, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I
am well pleased.” This happened before in Christ’s
life, namely, at his baptism. So we see a parallel: as
the baptism was the event launching him into his public
life, now the Transfiguration is the event launching him
into his passion, death and resurrection. It is for this
reason, I think, the holy Church has put this feast
early in Lent, so we can go from Mt. Tabor to Mt.
Calvary with Jesus during these days.
And then Christ’s body was filled with light. It was
glorified, like his body would be at the resurrection.
Both Christ and the three Apostles would be
strengthened, therefore, through the suffering and
death, so as to press on with hope to the glory that
awaited the Lord on Easter Sunday.
In this light, we can find further sense of Peter’s
words. “Let us build three tents.” Tents are for those
who are on pilgrimage, like the Israelites for forty
years in the desert. The Gospel of John opens saying
that Jesus “pitched his tent among us,” his tent being
his own flesh, mortal and finite. But when Christ
becomes resurrected, his flesh will become immortal and
glorified. Therefore, while Peter is looking at the holy
Moses and Elijah, and our Lord filled with light and
glory, he is looking at the end result, and not at the
present situation. The end result is the resurrection in
heaven, both for Jesus and for all the saints, and
heaven is no longer a place of pilgrimage, as is earth.
Therefore, tents, the housing of pilgrimage, are not
proportionate to the state of glory that Moses, Elijah
and the Lord are currently manifesting.
As we press on during Lent, let us not get too bogged
down and disheartened by how hard the spiritual
exercises can be on our poor, sinful flesh. Rather, let
us take heart, lift up our spirit, and keep in mind the
prize, goal and rewards of our efforts, namely: eternal
life in heaven forever, with the Trinity, Mary, Joseph
and all the angels and saints. Amen.■