Tag Archives: transfiguration

2nd Sunday of Lent, cycle B

1st Reading – Genesis 22: 1-2, 9-13, 15-18

It’s important to know this passage comes from the “Eholistic” source: an oral tradition written down in the Northern half of the Holy Land in the middle of the 8th century BCE. The authors of this particular source seem to have been prophets, disturbed by constant pagan pressures inflicted on their readers.  Many of these non-Jewish people actually sacrificed their children to the fertility gods and goddesses they worshiped; if Yahweh were to actually demand the Israelites sacrifice their children, they would do so, no matter the cost. But the writer reinforces their belief in Yahweh as a God of life by reminding them they’re to “redeem” any child they’d sacrifice with an animal.  In Abraham’s case, Isaac is redeemed with a ram.  In narrating this story, the Eholistic author is more interested in Abraham’s dedication to Yahweh than in the psychological harm such a scenario can inflict on the participants.  Abraham, as the first Jew, sets the example for all other Jews. He’s depicted as someone totally loyal to Yahweh. The constant intent to do whatever Yahweh wants is what sets him and his descendants apart from all others. Certainly makes them “holy,” deeply different from those around them, (Dignity USA weekly email for this week).

Notice how Abraham continues to listen to God, even when he hears such a difficult message. In fact because of his faith in a God who is a faithful friend he listens with hope and an expectation that in the end God will bring forth life. Due to this kind of listening, he was able to hear the words: “Do not lay your hands on the boy.” Only this kind of listening can lead to new life and a deeper appreciation of God’s love and power.  (“Working with the Word” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

In reflecting on this passage, Rabbi Harold Kushner wondered if Isaac may have had developmental issues.  He was born to elderly parents who had to arrange a marriage for him, so it’s a possibility.  Maybe Abraham hearing God’s command could actually have been his own ambivalence about having to raise a special needs child, (The Book of Job, p. 23).  Food for thought.

2nd Reading – Romans 8: 31-34

Here we are assured by Paul that God is not only with us – Emmanuel – but God is FOR us. What meaning do you find in this?  How is this connected to the 1st reading about Abraham and Isaac?

When Saul was thrown from his legendary ‘high-horse’ and blinded, he awoke as Paul, to know, to love, to follow the One who called him.  From that hour forward his life was an unwavering Adsum, Hebrew for “Here I am, Lord!” No other force sustained him, no other love motivated, so that he could say: “If God is for me, who can be against me?”  These scriptures challenge us to say the same: “Here, I am, Lord!” (Celebrations, March 2003)

The cross is a great act of love . . . God accepts, affirms, sustains, and supports us – He loves us – by taking his place with us, in and through Jesus. He has chosen to be with us in our brokenness. He has come to stay.  “There is no dark corner of human existence which will ever be able to separate us from him again.” Now suffering and death are signs of his presence and power. This is why we “proclaim the death of the Lord,” (John Dwyer, “Theology of the Cross”).

The Gospel – Mark 9: 2-10
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil . . .

Because the Holy Spirit over the bent

World with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

High mountains have often been sites for theophanies or ‘godly manifestations;’ clouds that overshadow were seen as signs of the divine presence.  Martin Luther King, Jr. probably had this gospel in mind when he said the night before he was killed: “We’ve got some difficult days ahead.  But it doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.  And I don’t mind.  Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.  Longevity has its place.  But I’m not concerned about that now.  I just want to do God’s will.  And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain . . . And I’m happy tonight.  I’m not worried about anything.  I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”   After King’s death, his experience of the mountaintop inspired his followers to continue his work.  Jesus’ disciples were also inspired by such experiences to continue Jesus’ work of spreading the Good News of God’s love – despite the hardships that might entail. We, too, need to look at Jesus, listen to him and be similarly transformed. (Celebrations, March 2003)

Both Moses and Elijah were prophets whose whole lives were transformed by God’s presence and power. Both experienced God on Mt. Sinai – Moses receiving the Law and Elijah receiving God’s power and presence in the silence after a storm. In Jewish thought, clouds were regularly connected with God’s presence: Exodus 16: 10; 19:9; 33:9; 1 Kings 8: 10; 2 Maccabees 2:8. (Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, 210.)

God moments end, and we have to go back down the mountain.  The good news is, we can take them with us.  We can let those good, wonderful times transfigure us.  They can light us up and help us to take on what comes ahead.  We can be refreshed.  We can know that God enters in and doesn’t go away.  Jesus walks back down the mountain with his friends.  They are ready to take on what is ahead together.  God’s love never goes away, no matter where we are, and we are transformed by it.

As Christians, how do we come down the mountain?  Do we keep ourselves “apart” and in tents, or are we challenged to do more?  What “tents” separate people in our society today?  (Questions posed by Barb Forte for our RCIA meeting this week.)

2nd Sunday of Lent, cycle A

The Gospel – Matthew 17: 1-9

Mountaintops have often been symbols for peak spiritual experiences. Moses, the freeing lawgiver, and Elijah, the wonder-working prophet, met God on Mt. Sinai or Mt. Horeb (two names for the same mountain). At Sinai the Hebrew people had been wanderers who lived in tents. A tent became the Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of God’s sheltering presence in the wilderness.  As they traveled, God went with them, a cloud by day and fire by night (Exodus 40). The booths that Peter wants to build symbolize this sheltering presence of God.  (Sunday by Sunday, Feb. 28, 1999 from Good Ground Press http://www.goodgroundpress.com )

 

Is your experience of God’s presence this Lent more like a mountaintop or a journey through a valley – or desert – a cloud?  What does it mean to you to have God’s favor rest on Jesus – on us?

 

All of Lent is about either preparing for baptism or learning to live our baptism more fully. We are called to listen to Jesus – to journey with our God – to grow in holiness. All of this will mean a share in God’s glory – God’s own life, but it will also mean an embrace of suffering.  Through baptism we all share in the life of the glorified Christ.  This life is the blessing of holiness, promised to Abraham by God and made possible through the transformative grace of Jesus’ suffering and death.

 

From Living Liturgy, Year A, p.68:

Christian living is about being touched by Jesus so that the fleeting moments of glory are made permanent in bettering the lives of others.  ‘Coming down from the mountain’ may be a metaphor for the need to take up the ministry of Jesus. Listening to Jesus and being touched by him should draw us outside of ourselves – and our ‘comfort zones.’ We don’t build tents: we feed the hungry, cloth the naked, touch the downhearted, visit the lonely, encourage the discouraged, etc. In this way Christ touches others through us. This kind of living is eminently practical and requires a real and constant dying to self. Why do we try to live this way? Because we have great hope in the outcome: helping to create a better world here (God’s kingdom) and forever.

 

Consider the following paradoxes:

1) The account of the Transfiguration is sandwiched between two predictions of his passion and death.

2) Peter, James, and John were also the three who were with Jesus in Gethsemane.

3) Jesus tells his disciples not to mention this vision until after his suffering.

The image of Christ transfigured is that of Christ being glorified after the suffering and death. 

How do you understand what is called the paschal mystery?

Here are some thoughts from Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing:

The paschal mystery is the mystery of how we, after undergoing some kind of death, receive new life and new spirit. Jesus, in both his teaching and in his life, showed us a clear paradigm for how this should happen. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest.” (John 12:24) These words of Jesus define the paschal mystery: namely, in order to come to fuller life and spirit we must constantly be letting go of present life and spirit. Terminal death is a death that ends life and ends possibilities. Paschal death is a death that, while ending one kind of life, opens the person undergoing it to receive a deeper and richer form of life.

Daily we undergo this paschal mystery.

In more colloquial language it is this:

  1. Name your deaths (Good Friday).
  2. Claim your births (Easter).
  3. Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality (the 40 days after Easter).
  4. Do not cling to the old; let it ascend and give you its blessing (Ascension).
  5. Accept the spirit of the life that you are in fact living (Pentecost). (The Holy Longing, pp. 145-148)

 

Have you ever experienced a transfiguration? Have you ever seen a plain girl become a radiant beauty when she is seen through the eyes of love? Have you ever seen a timid, ordinary person become a ‘lion’, a hero, when someone was in need of help? Have you ever noticed a homely face become remarkably attractive as they share their enthusiasm for something they love? Have you ever met someone who appeared to be rather ordinary only to discover how extraordinary they really are? Have you ever felt tired, discouraged, and alone only to quietly, but deeply begin to feel God’s presence and care? Afterwards, you can’t really doubt that it was from God, even though you may still not understand it. These experiences may help us to understand a little better the gospel experience. For a moment  the three disciples experience Jesus in the complete union with God that he is.

It was a short vision of how things really are at their core. Yet, Jesus will go on to suffer. The Transfiguration was one way to show that Jesus’ suffering would not negate his divinity. Suffering is not foreign to the Father or to Jesus. (John Foley, S.J. “Spirituality of the Readings,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

The Transfiguration of the Lord (written by Kristine Rooney)

Transfiguration

I love this story.  Jesus takes Peter, James and John to the mountain and becomes transfigured in light. Moses and Elijah join him and they start chatting  (What are they chatting about anyway?  Long time no see?).  Peter is floored by the whole thing.  He doesn’t want it to end.  “Lord, it is good that we are here.”  He wants to set up tents for everyone and just stay.

Being summer and time for vacations, can’t you identify with that feeling?  Getting away from home, experiencing new things and seeing beautiful places…it makes you feel like you don’t want it to end.  It is good to be there. You want it to last. You don’t want to go back to the job, the chaos, the stuff of the every day.  You can hear it in Peter’s voice:  Can’t we just stay?

Peter was still going on and on when God decides to interrupt.  God enters in, expresses love for Jesus and says they should listen to him.  Isn’t it interesting that when they are so happy and feeling so good that God shows up to their Transfiguration party?  Of course, God is a part of that joy and goodness.  God wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!  God reveals God’s self in those moments.  God causes those moments.  And God strengthens us in those moments.

Because, we always have to go back.  Vacations end (spoil alert), and we have to go back down the mountain.  The good news is, we can take it with us.  We can let those good, wonderful times transfigure us.  They can light us up and help us to take on what comes ahead.  We can be refreshed.  We can know that God enters in and doesn’t go away.  Jesus walks back down the mountain with his friends.  They are ready to take on what is ahead together.  God’s love never goes away, no matter where we are, and we are transformed by it.

Enjoy these summer days!

2nd Sunday of Lent, cycle A

The Gospel – Matthew 17: 1-9

Mountaintops have often been symbols for peak spiritual experiences. Moses, the freeing lawgiver, and Elijah, the wonder-working prophet, met God on Mt.Sinai or Mt.Horeb (two names for the same mountain). At Sinai the Hebrew people had been wanderers who lived in tents. A tent became the Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of God’s sheltering presence in the wilderness.  As they traveled, God went with them, a cloud by day and fire by night (Exodus 40). The booths that Peter wants to build symbolize this sheltering presence of God.  (Sunday by Sunday, Feb. 28, 1999 from Good Ground Press http://www.goodgroundpress.com )

Is your experience of God’s presence this Lent more like a mountaintop or a journey through a valley – or desert – a cloud?  What does it mean to you to have God’s favor rest on Jesus – on us?

All of Lent is about either preparing for baptism or learning to live our baptism more fully. We are called to listen to Jesus – to journey with our God – to grow in holiness. All of this will mean a share in God’s glory – God’s own life, but it will also mean an embrace of suffering.  Through baptism we all share in the life of the glorified Christ.  This life is the blessing of holiness, promised to Abraham by God and made possible through the transformative grace of Jesus’ suffering and death.

From Living Liturgy, Year A, p.68:

Christian living is about being touched by Jesus so that the fleeting moments of glory are made permanent in bettering the lives of others.  ‘Coming down from the mountain’ may be a metaphor for the need to take up the ministry of Jesus. Listening to Jesus and being touched by him should draw us outside of ourselves – and our ‘comfort zones.’ We don’t build tents: we feed the hungry, cloth the naked, touch the downhearted, visit the lonely, encourage the discouraged, etc. In this way Christ touches others through us. This kind of living is eminently practical and requires a real and constant dying to self. Why do we try to live this way? Because we have great hope in the outcome: helping to create a better world here (God’s kingdom) and forever.

Consider the following paradoxes:

1) The account of the Transfiguration is sandwiched between two predictions of his passion and death.

2) Peter, James, and John were also the three who were with Jesus in Gethsemane.

3) Jesus tells his disciples not to mention this vision until after his suffering.

The image of Christ transfigured is that of Christ being glorified after the suffering and death. 

How do you understand what is called the paschal mystery?

Here are some thoughts from Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing:

The paschal mystery is the mystery of how we, after undergoing some kind of death, receive new life and new spirit. Jesus, in both his teaching and in his life, showed us a clear paradigm for how this should happen. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest.” (John 12:24) These words of Jesus define the paschal mystery: namely, in order to come to fuller life and spirit we must constantly be letting go of present life and spirit. Terminal death is a death that ends life and ends possibilities. Paschal death is a death that, while ending one kind of life, opens the person undergoing it to receive a deeper and richer form of life.

Daily we undergo this paschal mystery.

In more colloquial language it is this:

1. Name your deaths (Good Friday).

2. Claim your births (Easter).

3. Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality (the 40 days after Easter).

4. Do not cling to the old; let it ascend and give you its blessing (Ascension).

5. Accept the spirit of the life that you are in fact living (Pentecost).  (The Holy Longing, pp. 145-148)

Have you ever experienced a transfiguration? Have you ever seen a plain girl become a radiant beauty when she is seen through the eyes of love? Have you ever seen a timid, ordinary person become a ‘lion’, a hero, when someone was in need of help? Have you ever noticed a homely face become remarkably attractive as they share their enthusiasm for something they love? Have you ever met someone who appeared to be rather ordinary only to discover how extraordinary they really are? Have you ever felt tired, discouraged, and alone only to quietly, but deeply begin to feel God’s presence and care? Afterwards, you can’t really doubt that it was from God, even though you may still not understand it. These experiences may help us to understand a little better the gospel experience. For a moment  the three disciples experience Jesus in the complete union with God that he is.

It was a short vision of how things really are at their core. Yet, Jesus will go on to suffer. The Transfiguration was one way to show that Jesus’ suffering would not negate his divinity. Suffering is not foreign to the Father or to Jesus. (John Foley, S.J. “Spirituality of the Readings,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

In a culture where honor and shame were everything, this story confirms to Jesus’ followers that no matter how shamefully he may be treated by the ‘powers of this world’ his very being is filled with God’s goodness and glory. It is in this truth, this reality, that Jesus steadfastly trusted. His faith and trust paid off: God restored to him his ultimate true honor in a way that no human ever could have. The crucified one was the one God raised from the dead. In our very different culture, where self-reliance is highly valued, it is equally challenging to trust God especially when we feel we are to be fully in control of our life and destiny. We, too, must realize that our hope also resides in the faithful love of our God who is with us in good times and bad. (John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

The disciples are asked not to talk about this experience, this vision. It is only in the light of the Resurrection that they will begin to understand the whole truth about Jesus. The crucifixion will be a scandal that is only be undone by the shining light of the resurrected Jesus offering to all his peace. (Share the Word, Feb. 28, 1999)