Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Second Sunday of Lent

20 March A.D. 2011

“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him.”{1}

Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ {2}

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Lenten Observance

    It is important to understand that this miracle of the transfiguration of our Lord took place just a few days after Saint Peter correctly identified our Lord as the “Christ, the Son of the living God” and Peter was given the papal power of binding and loosing.{3}  On that day, after receiving high praise from our Lord, Peter was rebuked for his effort to pursuade our Lord to avoid going to Jerusalem for His crucifixion:  “Get behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me: because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.”{4}

    It seems clear that Peter and the Apostles did not fully grasp just who and what our Lord was, and why He was among them on Earth.  Peter had witnessed our Lord as a great preacher who could draw the crowds, even to the desert.  He had witnessed a man who could heal the sick, multiply loaves, and cast out devils.  But no matter how impressive these things were, they were all the works of one who appeared to be a man, directed toward men and women.  Apparently, in Peter's mind, this was enough to be hoped for, and something he certainly did not want to lose.  

    But, here was our Lord saying “that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the ancients and scribes and chief priests, and be put to death, and the third day rise again.”{5}  Our Lord stated clearly that He would rise again on the third day, but that may well have gone right over Peter's head.  Peter and the others had witnessed the raising from the dead of Jairus' daughter, and the son of the widow of Naim, but those events might not have seemed much more than the healing of someone who seemed to be dead.{6}  And, certainly, it is a whole other thing to be dead and to raise one's self from the dead.

    It was, therefore, time for Peter to learn more precisely what it meant for Jesus to be the Son of God.  Pope Saint Leo the Great describes this transfiguration as a manifestation of our Lord's earthly body in its heavenly glory, “in the kingly brilliance … belonging to the nature of His assumed Manhood,” but not the direct manifestation of His divinity, “the unspeakable and unapproachable vision of the Godhead Itself which is reserved till eternal life for the pure in heart.{7}  No mortal man can directly see God and live.  The divinity of Jesus is always “under the veil,” as it were—the veil of His human appearance, or the veil of the appearences of bread and wine in Holy Communion.

    But they do see the Son of Man in glory.  Not only that, but they hear the voice of God the Father:  “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  And that voice confirmed that the Son spoke for the Father, “Hear Him.

    And, associated with the voice of the Father are the witnesses of the Old Testament who were known to have had particularly close knowledge of the Father, Moses and Elias.  According to the Old Testament prescription:  “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall stand.”{8}  Of all the prophets, Moses had come the closest to seeing God while yet alive.  And, after speaking with God, the face of Moses gleamed so brightly that the people could not stand to look upon his countenance.{9}  Moses had died before entering the Promised Land, but here he was speaking with Jesus, quite alive.

    And then there was Elias, the second most notable of the prophets, after Moses, and one who had apparently never tasted death, but was taken up into heaven:  “behold a fiery chariot, and fiery horses parted them both asunder: and Elias went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”{10}  And, now, here was Elias, and he was speaking with Jesus, quite alive.

    Peter, James, and John would later serve as witnesses to the other Apostles, and to all of us who would follow Christ.  “In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall stand.”  So we have the word of these three who witnessed the glorification of Jesus on Mount Thabor.

At first, Saint Peter suggested that they remain on the mountain:  “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.”  Peter still seems to be trying to avoid Jerusalem and the Crucifixion.  But on hearing the voice of the Father they were all very much afraid—this was the very Lord God of Israel Himself, telling them to do what ever Jesus said to do—even if that had to include Jerusalem and the Cross.

    We find ourselves in very much the same situation.  It is human nature to avoid suffering.  No one really wants to carry the Cross.  But, as Pope Saint Leo tells us in his sermon:

    Let all men's faith then be established, according to the preaching of the most holy Gospel, and let no one be ashamed of Christ's cross, through which the world was redeemed.

    And let not any one fear to suffer for righteousness' sake, or doubt of the fulfilment of the promises ... through toil we pass to rest and through death to life; since all the weakness of our humility was assumed by Him.

    [And], if we abide in the acknowledgment and love of Him, we conquer as He conquered, and receive what he promised … whether to the performance of His commands or to the endurance of adversities.

    In brief, Pope Leo is telling us that we have seen demonstrated the divinity of Jesus Christ, who would later overcome the death of the Cross.  And we have been given a command by His Father in heaven:

    This is My beloved Son … hear Him!”


1  Matthew xvii: 1-8

9  Exodus xxxiii,-xxxiv


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