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In August and Lent

Second Sunday of Lent

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

On August 6th we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. We do it every year because it is included in the liturgical calendar of the Church.

Just as we read the narration of the temptations of Christ every year on the first Sunday of Lent and last Sunday, we heard St. Mark’s version; every year on the Second Sunday of Lent, we read the narration of the Transfiguration of the Lord that appears in the synoptic Gospel for that year.

I find it remarkable that the Transfiguration of the Lord appears twice in the liturgical year. It is not common for an event in the public ministry of Christ to appear twice. As far as I know, the only event in addition to this that appears twice in the calendar is the Passion of the Lord which we read on Palm Sunday according to the synoptic Gospel of the year and on Good Friday, when we read the Passion according to St. John. Not even the birth of Christ appears twice in the reading cycle for the liturgical year.

That the Transfiguration is an important event is abundantly clear from a reading of the Biblical text. The Evangelists struggle to convey to us what transpired there. For example, in the account that appears in the Gospel according to Mark that we are reading this Sunday, we are told that “His clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.”

In the original text in Greek, the Transfiguration is described with the word metamorphosis. It is a word that is somewhat familiar to, meaning, transformation and change.

There is no question that in this event the glory of the Lord becomes manifest in the presence of the three chosen disciples even before His glorification in time. The Lord is transformed. His appearance changes. He does not look like an ordinary man. There is a glimpse of His glory, His majesty, His divine nature.

Jesus Christ is true God and true man, but the glory of His divinity is not accessible to their senses. St. Thomas Aquinas says with poetic beauty in the great Eucharistic hymn Adoro te Devote that on the cross His divinity was hidden. It was also invisible during his public ministry. Although the disciples had witnessed the miracles and prodigies of the Lord, although they had heard His claims about His divine filiation and nature, they had an inkling but would not see His glory revealed until after His Resurrection. Yet, at the Transfiguration they have an experience of divine glory through their senses. Jesus is transformed before their very eyes. He talks with Moses and Elijah. The voice of the Father is heard. It is the same voice that had spoken during his baptism, an event where the presence of the Spirit also becomes visible. At the Transfiguration, the disciples grasp the divinity and majesty of Christ.

The Lord not only reveals His glory during the Transfiguration, He also decidedly embraces his impending, Passion. As St. Paul writes to the Philippians, He does not cling to His divinity but rather becomes obedient unto death on the cross. He will follow the path to Calvary leading to the Resurrection, the irrevocable and definitive manifestation of His power and glory.

It is only natural that this wonderful experience of contemplation of the glory of God fill the disciples with awe. They are not paralyzed by fear, they are rather overcome by emotion through an experience that is overwhelming and fills them with joy. Every encounter with the sacred is overwhelming. There is no doubt whatsoever that it leads to a feeling of security and consolation that we hope will last in the indefinite future.

We also contemplate the glory of God. We have had an encounter with Christ Risen from the dead, which is why we are Christian. Just like the disciples, we have seen His glory. Our experience is not quite the same to that of the apostles in the sense that we have not had experiences such as the Transfiguration and we have not been eyewitnesses of the events in the public ministry of Christ or His Resurrection, but we have had a personal encounter with Him which is renewed in an extraordinary and overwhelming way every time we receive Him in the Eucharist.

The Father continues to tell us to listen to Him so that we may truly live. The Lord invites us to be with Him and look at Him attentively. As St. John Paul II told the Chilean youth during his apostolic visit in 1987, we must look at the Lord confidently, without fear. We will discover much more than a prophet, a social reformer or a wise man. If we look at Him with discerning eyes, we will discover in Him the very face of God.

Fr. Roberto M. Cid