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Called to Transfiguration

Mt. 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and do not be afraid." And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, "Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

Called to be Transfigured

We are made for beauty, and the Christian vocation is a reminding of that. The Feast of the Transfiguration gives us a preview of the future glory to which we are called by virtue of our baptism. “Through Baptism we are formed in the likeness of Christ: ‘For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.’ In this sacred rite a oneness with Christ's death and resurrection is both symbolized and brought about.” (Lumen Gentium, 7)

But what is this glory that we are to experience. The Transfiguration gives us a clue. It seems that before Jesus suffered his own Passion and Death, he wanted the disciples to understand the glory of the Resurrection. So he took Peter, James, and John up the mountain to receive a glimpse of his glory. C.S. Lewis speaks of glory on the mountain in his retelling of the ancient myth of Cupid and Psyche: Till We Have Faces. The younger sister in the story feels that she is on a quest to reach the god of the mountain.

The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing—to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from— […] the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back. All my life the god of the Mountain has been wooing me. Oh, look up once at least before the end and wish me joy. I am going to my lover.” (Psyche in Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis)

One of the problems in our life is that we live without a sense of quest. We live distracted by a million pleasures so that we never have to face the reality of the ultimate meaning of our lives. The beautiful thing about the Feast of the Transfiguration is that it reveals to us the glorified body of Christ, the promise of the Resurrection, and the ultimate meaning of our lives.

The apostles saw the glorified Christ. We may feel a tinge of jealousy. But there is good news. We can see this same Jesus. Are you aware of the Shroud of Turin? This is the burial cloth which held Jesus after his crucifixion. It is the most studied archeological object in the world and is housed in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. The mangled, destroyed body of Our Lord was deposited in a burial site close to the place of his death. The power of the Resurrection imprinted the image of his body on the shroud surrounding him. One marvelous thing about the image is that it is a photographic negative. What people could only contemplate as a mysterious vague image of the Lord, we are now able to see more clearly through modern technology and interpretation of the visual data. It is a divine snapshot of the Resurrection. As it is his glorified body, I think it is fitting to associate it with today’s Feast of the Transfiguration.

One great thing about the Resurrection is that it is not an isolated event. Jesus taking on his glorified body shows us the existence to which we are called in the future. At the Second Coming and Final Judgment, our souls will be re-united to our glorified bodies and we too will experience the force and power of the Resurrection.

At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. Then the just will reign with Christ for ever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe itself will be transformed. God will then be "all in all" (1 Cor 15:28), in eternal life. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1060)

The experience of the Transfiguration gives us a clue as well about the ultimate meaning of our lives. The apostles got the order a bit mixed up. When Jesus reveals himself in his glorified body, Peter is inspired to form a small community of adoration. We carry this out in an imperfect way during our earthly existence. We have activities such as Eucharistic Adoration. We spend time in contemplative prayer. Some communities and religious dedicate long hours of every day to this type of contemplative enjoyment of God’s presence. But we will be able to do this more fully in our next life, possessing our glorified bodies and using our body and soul to glorify God in a more perfect way than we are now capable. But Jesus tells us that now we have another focus. Peter wants to live Heaven a little early. But he receives the mission to go and preach the Gospel, to share with others the joy of the Risen Christ. This is what we are called to do with our lives.

Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others? (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 8)

What can you do this week so as to share with others the joy of the Gospel?

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