Father Lawrence Bausch
August 6, 2020
In the name of the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
It seems to me that the longer we live, the more our thoughts turn to the question of where are we heading?
As life seems to be a journey, we wonder where are we going to end up?
Today’s Feast of the Transfiguration provides a great opportunity for Christians to ponder this question in the clear light of Scripture. Our Gospel connects readily with some of Paul’s passages, which supplement the Gospel in helping us to see the bigger picture which our question asks. We will look at some of these texts to help us deepen in our faith in God’s will and how it will be accomplished in us.
In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus transfigured; “the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white (Luke 9:29)”, witnessed by 3 apostles, Peter, James and John. We then read about a conversation between Jesus, Moses and Elijah, during which they “spoke of his (Jesus’) departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31)”. Later, the apostles hear a voice saying “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him (Luke 9:35)”.
This scene not only reveals something of the divine nature of Jesus but also describes the purpose of his mission. A key to understanding this is found in the Greek word for “departure”, which Jesus is to accomplish in Jerusalem: Exodus. In Moses’ Exodus, he had been chosen to lead God’s people out of slavery in Egypt into the land promised to them. We also know that this exodus had only partial success, because of the wayward faith of God’s people. They could not remain faithful and obedient to God’s commandments, and therefore they lost the land, only to return as servants of a foreign King.
Jesus’ Exodus is different. He accomplishes it in himself, completing his work on Good Friday and manifesting it to us on Easter. We have the assurance that his exodus was successful: In him, God and humankind are reconciled, and our nature has been transfigured so that it can dwell in our true Promised Land, the Presence of God.
The remaining question is how do we participate in his exodus so that we as persons may ascend in Him to God’s Presence?
St Paul answers this question in a variety of ways throughout his letters, and we will look at 4 passages which together help us grasp his vision.
In Colossians, Paul writes that his vocation is “to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY (Col. 1:25b-27, emphasis mine)”. The context for our participation in Jesus’ exodus through death to eternal life is that he be in us, which is begun sacramentally in Baptism.
In Galatians, this message is strengthened when he writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20)”. This describes in different word what Jesus’ taught shortly before the Transfiguration: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23-24)”.
In 2 Corinthians, he describes how this life in Christ unfolds in us: “And we all, with unveiled face (unlike Moses), beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is this Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18)”. As we live out our rhythm of yearning for God, obedience, neglect, disobedience, and repentance, God is doing his transforming work in us. This is described as an ongoing process, and is therefore not necessarily noticeable at any given point along the way.
A priest of mine taught that spiritual growth or growth in Christ is like that of a plant- most of the early growth is beneath the surface, out of sight. He suggested that, if you want to get an idea whether you are growing in this way, don’t look back less than 5 years in your life as a comparison. As many of us are older than I was then, I would suggest don’t look back less than 10 or even 20 years!
Finally, in I Corinthians Paul gives us a vision of what we hope for when our transformation into the likeness of Christ is complete, when the ambiguities and uncertainties of this life are done away: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Cor 13:12)”.
As these passages make clear, this work of our transformation is done by Christ with our cooperation. As we celebrate Jesus’ Transfiguration, let us rededicate ourselves to trusting in his guiding Spirit to lead us along this journey. May our look at this Scriptural answer to the question about the end of our journey help us to deepen in our trust and hope in Him, and to a renewal in our discipleship.
O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen