"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
The Transfiguration: a foretaste of the glory to come
Synopsis: As Christians we live on earth, but are citizens of heaven. This week’s readings point to the Resurrection and our ultimate destiny. The first reading tells the story of how God established a covenant with Abraham. God had promised Abraham countless decedents, but Abram was 90 years old and his wife Sarah was barren. They had no children. As far as Abraham could see, his only possible heir was his servant, Eliezer. So God takes Abram outside and tells him to look up. “Count the stars if you can,” he says. A few verses later it says, “When the sun had set ….” indicating that Abram was told to count the stars in broad daylight! Even though Abram had no children, and hence no possibility of descendants, they were there. He couldn’t see them, but God could. Abraham believed God and his faith was “credited … to him as an act of righteousness.” In the second reading, St. Paul talks about the transformation that awaits us in the future when the Lord will change “our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.” Like Abraham we can’t even imagine how such a thing is possible, let alone how it will happen. But we believe it. The Gospel for the second Sunday of Lent is always the Transfiguration. This event marks the transition from Jesus’ ministry in Galilee to his final act in Jerusalem. It mirrors the Exodus and how Moses’ face shone after his encounter with God on Mount Sinai (Ex 34:29). The narrative even refers to Jesus’ passion as his “exodus” to make the connection clear. And just as Aaron, Nadab and Abihu accompanied Moses up the mountain (Ex 24), so too Peter, James and John accompanied Jesus. Moses and Elijah represent the law and the prophets, which prepared for the coming of Christ. The apostles were given a glimpse of heaven to help them through the ordeal that lay ahead.
Key verse: “Moses and Elijah appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem” (Luke 9:30-31).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “For a moment Jesus discloses his divine glory, confirming Peter’s confession. He also reveals that he will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to ‘enter into his glory.’ Moses and Elijah had seen God’s glory on the mountain; the law and the prophets had announced the Messiah’s sufferings” (No. 555).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The mystery of the transfiguration must not be separated from the context of the path Jesus is following. He is now decisively oriented to fulfilling his mission, knowing all too well that to arrive at the resurrection he must pass through the passion and death on the cross” (Angelus, March 4).
Life application: Nothing in this world lasts forever, including the world itself. Our true homeland, our ultimate destiny lies elsewhere. “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb 13:14). Jesus revealed his glory to Peter, James and John to show them that the suffering and death he was to endure would not end in annihilation, but in glory. At the beginning of Lent we are given a glimpse of heaven and foretaste of Easter to sustain us on our Lenten journey. The way to the Promised Land goes straight through the cross.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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