Sunday, March 16, 2014


March 16, 2014 –– 2nd Sunday in Lent
Genesis 12:1–4a / 2 Timothy 1:8b–10 / Matthew 17:1–9

Do you ever connect going to church with heaven? One of the things that drew me to the Catholic Church was the way Mass brings heaven to earth in the re-presentation of our Lord’s sacrifice. As we live in this world, we need ways to “see” the  eternal. Today’s Gospel reading tells us of one way Jesus allowed three of his disciples to see this way. The Transfiguration always triggers in my mind the phrase “a brief picture of reality.”

Think of things the world around us calls “reality.” We live in a WYSIWYG world: —What You See Is What You Get. People are obsessed with pleasure, convinced that is the way to happiness. People try almost anything to avoid the big threats in life—poverty and illness and what is assumed to be the finality of death. The focus is on the here-and-now, and people want life to be comfortable and convenient.

Why should we believe––and seek––anything different? Christian Faith says the reason is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But how can a “modern mind” dare believe this is true?  This story of the Transfiguration offers a single picture of the bigger truth.

When Jesus was on earth, what people saw when they looked upon the Incarnate Son of Man was.... a man. Sometimes they saw him do some amazing things, but he was still a man who dressed like them, ate like them, walked the roads and paths like them.... a man who the Scriptures and the Church confess to be fully human.

Yet Christian Faith came to recognize there was more. John wrote about Jesus: we have seen his glory. The writer to the Hebrews says that the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. The glory that covered Adam and Eve at the beginning, the glory that came down on Mt. Sinai and caused Moses’ face to shine, the glory that inhabited the Tabernacle and the Temple, and the glory promised by the Isaiah and Ezekiel came into our world in the person of Jesus Christ.

Still, those looking at Him during those earthly years would have asked (if they had been told this Man was the glory of God): Where? How? In a WYSIWYG world, Jesus seemed—even though he was engaging, puzzling, commanding, divisive and exasperating—just another man.

But one day—one time on one particular day—three of the disciples had their own WYSIWYG world expanded.  Peter, James and John saw His glory as he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. This “brief picture of reality” helped lay a foundation for understanding the coming reality of the crucifixion and resurrection. Peter gave this clear witness and exhortation in his second letter:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

What do you “see” when you come to church? Do we limit our vision to the human side of the liturgy? Do we ever wonder:  If Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, why isn’t there an obvious and overwhelming glory? That is a question sparked by a WYSIWYG mentality. What if Abraham had acted only on what he could see?!

Jesus let three of His disciples see His glory once during those ministry days. It was enough to pave the way for a Faith that would change the world. We can believe today because there is a credible eyewitness record that has been established as an Apostolic Rule of Faith. Peter and John both wrote that they saw.... and they testified that these things are true.... and then they lived —in such a contrasting way to who they previously were—so that people looking at them took notice that they had been with Jesus.

The Transfiguration calls us—warmly and powerfully invites us—to “see” the glory of God in a way that goes beyond the WYSIWYG existence of the world-spirit around us. Paul reminded the Philippians: our citizenship is in heaven. The glories of this world do not last. The best earthly happiness is temporary. At the same time, the threats of this world do not have the last word, not even death. When we follow Jesus we have the promise of resurrection—the glory of the Son which is the inheritance of all who belong to him. But it’s not apart from, first, the cross with the accompanying darkness of not having everything yet fully visible.

As Christians, we live in the hope of glory, knowing that Jesus is the way. As we journey through these days of Lent, let’s not forget the bigger picture. Jesus gave this early glimpse of his glory so that his disciples—and that includes us today––could have a brief picture of reality. We are invited to see again and again when Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist. It’s heaven come to earth.

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