Every year, a version of the Transfiguration Gospel is read on the Second Sunday of Lent. This year it is from St. Matthew.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, 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, “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. Matt 17:1-9
This Gospel happens just six days after Jesus told his disciples to ‘Take up your cross, and follow me.’ and ‘You will see the Son of Man come in the glory of His Father.’ I always want to know what the disciples were thinking during those six days. I wonder if the disciples ever really understood what Jesus told them was going to happen to him as they were bumbling toward Jerusalem. Because they were thick headed, God had to pull out all the stops and show the disciples who Jesus really is.
Jesus appears all resplendent, glorious in appearance. It dawns on the disciples that this Jesus whom they have been following, is not just any ordinary man, despite all the healings and the multiplication of loaves and fishes.
And Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah! How can they explain that?
Is Jesus from all eternity?
Is Jesus from all eternity?
Then a Voice spoke from the cloud. Seeing Jesus bright and shiny wasn’t enough. Imagine the disciples awe at first seeing a glorified Jesus and the prophets, and then the terror of a voice thundering from the bright cloud enveloping them. It must have seemed that God, enthroned on his cloud of glory, came down to tell them, ‘You guys just aren’t getting it.’ “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
This is the second time Matthew writes this saying, the first time being at the Baptism of the Lord, but this second time God adds, “Listen to him.”
The glory of the transfigured Jesus: face like the sun, clothes white as light; and a Voice in the bright enveloping cloud would sure make me believe that Jesus is One with the Father from all eternity.
Then there is the little bit at the end where it says, ‘…they saw no one, but Jesus alone.’ This reminds me of Bl. Celeste who says, ‘…fix your gaze on this God-made-Man...’
Then the Gospel ends with, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’ Thank goodness that’s over. Everything is back to normal. But is it?
What is Transfiguration? Transfiguration is a complete change of form or appearance into a more resplendent state. In Jesus’ case, his transfiguration shows his glorious, resurrected state and Oneness with the Father.
What, then, is transformation? Transformation is a process of change of appearance or character.
Where do we come in all of this?
Jesus’ transfiguration happened in an instant. The veil between heaven and earth parted for a moment revealing the Son of God.
Our transformation takes a little longer. We are all a work in progress. My sister, Theresa, and I were joking that we were both late bloomers. I said, “I still have a lot of blooming to do.” I think we all feel that way at times simply because life is a process.
But what do we want to become? Be transformed into what? And why do we want to be transformed?
I dug around Blessed Maria Celeste’s writing and found some advice.
Warning: For our purpose, I changed pronouns and edited Bl. Celeste writings, arranging her thoughts for us to better understand her meaning. As I’ve said before at other times, Celeste can be quite verbose.
Simply put Celeste says, “So that you might enable Jesus to be reborn to the world in the souls of all his dear ones.” Clearly, this means that our transformation is not for our sake only, but for the salvation of our sisters and brothers.
How can this happen? We sound like Mary questioning Gabrielle at the Annunciation.
God tells Celeste, “I have given you, out of immense love, my Only Begotten Son, and by Him I have given you my divine Spirit to make you divine in life… The Spirit transforms us and changes us into a new creature in God by stamping on your spirit the features, the virtues of Christ’s life.”
Then Celeste shares mystical experiences that helped her transform into her Beloved. She says, “The phrase recited at the Creed of the Mass, ‘consubstantial with the Father,’ was pronounced in the center of my soul, and I understood that God-Man’s virtues should regulate all the actions of my life.
“Of all the times of my life, the most precious were the sacramental communions... At Holy Communion the Lord caused me to feel transformed into Jesus: in a divine light, I felt with utmost joy, all the virtues of the holy Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ stamped upon my soul. All my feelings and passions became sanctified by Jesus and were transformed into his feelings.”
Celeste goes on to advise us, “Unite yourself with Him and be transformed into God. By the irrevocable gift of the Eucharist, Christ made himself the real food in the Sacrament of the Altar.
It gives us such a risen life in God that it transforms us into the eternal life of God, as we await the dawning of that new day.”
What is this new day? How do we arrive at it?
Again God instructs Celeste, “You must desire to see yourself on Calvary with myThere you will find true liberty, true peace and true glory, where like a queen you shall be in possession of the Kingdom of your King.”
This is the very thing Jesus had been telling his disciples six days before the Transfiguration, ‘Take up your cross and follow me,” and, “You will see My Father’s glory.”
So, that was what Bl. Celeste said helped her: her faith and understanding in living out the virtues of the God-Man by purging her passions; the enlightenment and nourishment she received from the real food of the Sacrament of the Altar; and union with her Beloved on the cross. This is the meaning of the Viva Memoria charism: with eyes fixed on Christ in all we think, feel and do, Jesus lives and works his salvation for the world in and through us.
But how do we follow Christ and become transformed in our own day? Let us turn to your Constitutions for some insight.
The love of Christ the Redeemer which constitutes the spirit of our Association implies that we will gradually be transformed in Him and therefore that we will gradually die to ourselves to the extent that we may be able to say with the apostle Paul..."I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me." Gal 2:20 #9
Baptism is the beginning of our transformation in Jesus Christ. It marks our first and fundamental consecration as children of God. We are called to continue this transformation in order to become both personally and together, a Living Memory of the Paschal Mystery of the Redeemer. #12
The more we progress in this transformation of ourselves in Him, the more we will be able to be a living witness of His charity. It is through the revelation of this charity that our brothers and sisters will discover in Jesus Christ the one Truth and the one Hope. #14
It is fitting for us who must be transformed in Him throughout our lives to act as He did in His most holy life. #15
"God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of His Son crying: Abba, Father." The more we allow this Spirit to invade us with His transforming presence, the better will we exercise the priesthood of our baptism, by offering ourselves to the Father as a living eucharist for the world. We find light and strength in the Word of God and in the sacraments so that we can, following the example of Christ, make of our whole life a sacrifice of praise to the glory of the Father. #21
Love of the cross is essentially love and imitation of Jesus Christ. Jesus has freed the world by embracing our painful death so as to transform it into His redemptive death. He passed from death to life, from the fragility of the flesh to the supreme glory of the resurrection. "Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into His glory?" Lk 24:26 Such is the Paschal Mystery in which we are given a share. #2
As we bumble about our daily lives this Lent, we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, recalling Christ’s Transfiguration as our transformation slowly takes shape. Just like in prayer, we get off course by distractions: your family is driving you up a wall, those pesky people at work bother you, your friends don’t call, all the rain is making you blue… Where’s the glory? Like it or not, each person, each situation is a gift; an opportunity to see and listen to God. Somewhere in that pesky person is a spark of Jesus. With patience and in turning again to see Jesus alone, there is the invitation to see and hear Jesus in that person. By seeing and hearing and loving that person as Jesus does, we are transformed. By nourishing ourselves and uniting ourselves with Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar, the transformation of our mind and heart, and hopefully theirs, will steadily grow and bloom.
St Paul says we are, “co-heirs with Christ: sharing in Christ’s sufferings and sharing in Christ’s glory.” Rm 8:17 Ultimately, in this sharing we find Christ’s Transfiguration is our transformation.
'STAINED GLASS' CROSSES
All these bits and pieces glued together look a bit of a mess, but when you turn it around and hold it up to the light it is transformed into something beautiful.