Today’s gospel story appears to be a direct response to the story of the temptation of Jesus in last Sunday’s Gospel. Two of those temptations began with the words, “If you are the Son of God …” In today’s Gospel God the Father himself affirms, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
The Transfiguration occupies a place in the season of Lent similar to its position in the gospels themselves. It occurs before our Lord’s passion, during which his appearance will be far from divine, as he is beaten, bloody and weak. We will hear in the First Reading on Good Friday: “[T]here was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him.” (Isaiah 53:2bc) On Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, we will hear in the Second Reading: “Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave … he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7a, 8) The Transfiguration is intended to sustain us in the face of Christ’s passion, just as it was granted to the disciples who would witness his passion, so that we not give in to despair but see the passion as the prelude to the revelation of Christ’s glory. We already know the end of the story, the good news of the resurrection. This Transfiguration Sunday reminds us to keep that vision before us as we continue our Lenten pilgrimage toward Easter.
Our Lenten pilgrimage is a reminder that our entire life is a pilgrimage to something greater. Saint Paul reminds us in today’s Second Reading that we, too, can look forward to a transfiguration: “[The Lord Jesus Christ] will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.” This is because, by virtue of our baptism, “our citizenship is in heaven.” While this world may be a “valley of tears” (cf. the “Hail Holy Queen”) and this life a walk through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4) we “shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living,” because “the Lord is [our] life and [our] salvation.” (Today’s Responsorial Psalm)
Remember that the Fridays of Lent, the day of our Lord’s passion and death, are days of penance, characterized by abstinence from eating meat at least by those who are 14 and older. I encourage families to come to the Stations of the Cross at 6:00 on Wednesday evenings at St. Charles. “The Way of the Cross” or “The Stations of the Cross” is a centuries-old devotion that gives to us who cannot make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land the opportunity to walk with Christ along the Via Dolorosa (“Sorrowful Street”). Guided by passages from the scriptures and prayers from the liturgy, we are able to meditate upon our Lord’s suffering for the sake of our redemption. Nowadays there are few families who come. This is really sad, since families miss out on this opportunity to pray together, and children lose this opportunity to learn the story of our Lord’s passion and its meaning for us. So make it a point to come to the Stations on the Wednesdays which remain this Lent.
May this Lenten season be one of grace and blessing for all of us, especially those who may have become estranged from the Church and desire reconciliation. Pray for the needs of the Church in our diocese and,as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.