GN 15: 5-12
PS 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14
PHIL 3: 17-4: 1 OR PHIL 3: 20-4:1
LK 9: 28B-36
In readings, Jesus shares a glimpse of not only who he is, but who we too can be. The Transfiguration is one of the most revered moments of scripture in the Church’s tradition, for here we see how divinity and humanity are no longer at odds but have been joined perfectly in this God-Man Jesus Christ.
The first reading from Genesis introduces us to “our father in Faith”, as the First Eucharistic Prayer names Abraham. Called by God to form a new chosen people, Abraham has to overcome his and his wife Sarah’s own natural limitations of old age and supposed barrenness in order to trust that God could rely on them to make his covenant known. Abraham is asked to look up to the stars (Gn 15:5), and then falls into a “deep sleep” (Gn ). This is always a sign of spousal union and marital fruitfulness (e.g., think back to Adam’s “deep sleep” from which Eve is thus born at Gn , or Christ’s “sleep” on the Cross bringing forth the Church from his side at Jn ). But what did Adam actually see? Notice earlier in Gn , “the sun was about to set”. Abraham looked up not at a sky full of stars, but saw only the sun! He thus had to trust that God would make him fruitful even when he himself could not understand how.
Paul appears next because this is the kind of trust we too are to imitate (Phil ). The Christian life is ultimately one of emulating Jesus and his friends, the saints, allowing Christ to be formed in our souls. Such imitation assumes that holiness is never a personal possession but shines throughout the Mystical Body, the Church. This is why St. Augustine teaches that we are not simply to gaze upon Jesus from afar but to take on his very person: “We have been made not only Christians, we have been made Christ” (Tractate on John 21.8). Participation in Christ’s own life, then, is the foundation of imitation (cf. Gal ), as all Christians must allow Christ to be reproduced within and throughout their souls, thoughts, words and actions. In this way Christians not only “imitate” but also “become” Christ in that we can now manifest superhuman agency, performing supernatural actions such as professing Christ as Lord (cf. 1 Cor 12:3), loving one another as God loves (cf. 1 Jn ), and living forever (cf. 2 Cor 5:1).
That is how we meet the Transfigured Christ today: by allowing ourselves to be with him, attentive and alert, getting a glimpse—every now and then—of who he truly is. He is a man like us longing for relationship and acceptance; but he is also God, the Lord and Lover of all! Today he strengthens us in our Lent in order to bring us back down our own mountains into the world (and campus) he wants to consecrate for all.
Fr. David Vincent Meconi, S.J. is Assistant Professor of Early Christianity in the Department of Theological Studies.