Today, August 6th, the Church recalls to us the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is also the subject for the Second Sunday in Lent. However, now in the heat of August, there is a slight difference. Today’s epistle is from St. Peter, the first Vicar of Christ. Despite his deep flaws, Our Lord chose him to lead His fledgling Church. What does St. Peter tell us in today’s epistle?
“Dearly beloved, we have not followed artificial fables, when we made known to you the power and presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ; but having been made eyewitnesses of His greatness. For He received from God the Father honour and glory; this voice coming down to Him from the excellent glory: ‘This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased, Hear ye Him.’ And this voice we heard brought from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mount. And we have the more firm prophetical word, whereunto you do well to attend, as to a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star rise in your hearts.” (II Peter, 1, 16-19)
Thus, today’s epistle reminds us that the Word of God is no fantastic fable, it is a true history of actual historical occurrences. As our first Pontiff reminds us, we “do well to attend, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star rise in (our) hearts.”
And so, we move to the glorious moment of the Transfiguration itself. Jesus took Peter, James and John up on Mount Tabor and revealed to them the very slightest bit of His infinite glory for a few brief moments in order to confirm their faith; knowing as He did, that the events of His passion were to shake their faith utterly.
“His face did shine as the sun and His garments became white as snow.” (Matthew 17, 2) In this vision the Apostles saw Moses and Elias speaking with Jesus. St. Luke tells us that, “they spoke of His decease that He should accomplish in Jerusalem”. (Luke 9, 31) By placing the Transfiguration narrative in this timeframe, the Church wishes to illustrate the close connection between the Transfiguration and the Passion and Death of Jesus. By revealing this brief glimpse of His glory, Jesus was showing His Apostles that it was impossible for Him as well as for them to reach the full glory of the Transfiguration without passing through suffering. After the Resurrection, He would confirm that lesson as He met them at Emmaus, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and so to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24, 26).
Peter, ever the impetuous one, became so caught up in the rapture of the moment, that he cried out, “It is good for us to be here!”. And then he offered to make three tabernacles, one each for Jesus, Moses and Elias, but as he was speaking the Lord God interrupted him peremptorily, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear ye Him!”
There is much to learn from this gospel. Peter was understandably impressed with the splendor of the moment and strongly desired to remain right there, in such a spiritually satisfying place. But that would have been to miss the whole point of it, which was to prepare them for the immense scandal of the Passion, the terrible spectacle of their Master humbled even to the lowest imaginable specter of a common criminal, mocked and spit upon, stripped of all dignity and nailed to a cross to die in ignominy.
And so, God by His reply told Peter in no uncertain terms to listen to Jesus and follow Him. if Peter was to lead the Church, he must learn to follow Christ all the way to Golgotha, up to the place of the skull. In time, he must even follow Him to his own crucifixion. Father Gabriel in his meditations on the Transfiguration assures us, “God does not console us for our entertainment but rather for our encouragement, for our strengthening, for the increase in our generosity in suffering for love of Him.” (Divine Intimacy)
Abruptly, the glorious vision ended, “And they lifting up their eyes saw no one but only Jesus.” In the Vulgate, “Levantes autem oculos suos, neminem viderunt, nisi solum Jesum.” (Matthew 17, 8). Nisi solum Jesum, with Jesus alone, they came down from the mountain. Nisi solum Jesum, Jesus alone is sufficient for us. Everything else, even friends, family, encouragement, approval, may be stripped away; yet Jesus alone remains. If He in His wisdom withdraws all else, yet He abides with us, even when we “know Him not”. And we must affirm this, even though He choose for us to follow Him through His suffering, being faithful even unto the awful moment when we cry out in our soul’s desolation, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”
Not as the world gives, does Jesus give. When it seems to the soul that He has withdrawn His love, withdrawn all consolation, it is only so that we follow Him with love and absolute trust as He endures the darkness of His Passion in order that He may bring about the glory of His true and lasting Transfiguration and share His glory with us eternally. This is as true for the Church as it is for us personally.
We are now less than two months away from the final Synod Against the Family and the Eucharist. We know that no matter what the media, even the supposedly traditional Catholic media report, the Bergoglio/Kasper agenda for the Synod is hell-bent on achieving irreversible change in the practice of the faith. But we know without a doubt that Our Lord Jesus Christ has reassured us that He will not forsake His Church. Let us hold firm to the faith, “the light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star rise in our hearts.”
Just as the Transfiguration was only a momentary glimpse of His glory, so too the passion and death of Our Lord in His Mystical Body the Church, are destined to pass and yield to His glorious Resurrection. Let us keep our perspective then, even in these chaotic times, and abide “with Jesus alone”, accepting all that is given to us from His wounded hands, trusting in Jesus alone.
Viva Cristo Rey!
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!