THE TRANSFIGURATION OF JESUS
GENESIS 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18. ROMAN 8:31B-34 MARK 9:2-10
In the gospel narratives, the transfiguration of Jesus is a prelude to the resurrection to come. After the three disciples had witnessed his transfiguration Jesus told them not to say anything about what they had seen. Mark ends the passage by commenting that “they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.” This comment throws a challenge our way. We, like those disciples, must discover what the resurrection means.
Every year, for a period of forty days, we dedicate ourselves to acts of penance and fasting to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Have you ever asked yourself why we go through all of this just to celebrate a moment in ancient history?
Actually, we’re not celebrating a historical anniversary. Fasting and penance are the tools, along with prayer and acts of charity, that we use to lift ourselves from the earthly plain to the spiritual plain the eternal now. This is where we discover the meaning of “rising from the dead.”
We can, and should, remember Jesus as an historical figure. He was a teacher, healer and miracle worker. He was betrayed by one of his followers, and sadistically executed. This is the story of the historical Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth.
The accounts of his resurrection and appearances to his disciples give witness to a Jesus liberated from the constraints of the historical plain. He appears to his disciples while they’re in hiding in the upper room. He teaches them. He eats with them. He appears to two of them as they flee Jerusalem. He teaches them and breaks bread with them. He promises that he’ll be with them until the end of time. This is the resurrected Jesus. This is Jesus, the universal Christ. He’s no longer bound by the restrictions of space and time.
The transfiguration is an icon of the resurrected Christ who in union with all of salvation history, past and present. In the eternal now, he’s in conversation with Moses and Elijah while still present to the three disciples who came with him to the mountaintop. This is the Jesus who said “this is my body – this is my blood” at the Last Supper. This is the resurrected Christ who speaks those same words at our Eucharist.
Lent is our communal retreat when we contemplate the meaning of the resurrection. This comes through prayer and an inner purification that frees us to love more deeply – to love as Jesus loved – unconditionally.
Lent is the time when Christians stop to reflect on the meaning of “rising from the dead.” The transfiguration is the icon the Church gives us for our contemplation. This image of the resurrected Christ is our invitation to transcend the earthly plain and to follow him.