let your everlasting light also shine upon us sinners.
O Giver of Light, glory be to You!
O God, who have commanded us
to listen to your beloved Son,
be pleased, we pray,
to nourish us inwardly by your word,
that, with spiritual sight made pure,
we may rejoice to behold your glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Gn 15:5-12, 17-18
The Lord God took Abram outside and said,
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
Abram put his faith in the LORD,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.
He then said to him,
“I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans
to give you this land as a possession.”
“O Lord GOD,” he asked,
“how am I to know that I shall possess it?”
He answered him,
“Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat,
a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
Abram brought him all these, split them in two,
and placed each half opposite the other;
but the birds he did not cut up.
Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses,
but Abram stayed with them.
As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram,
and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him.
When the sun had set and it was dark,
there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch,
which passed between those pieces.
It was on that occasion that the LORD made a covenant with Abram,
saying: “To your descendants I give this land,
from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 146 Abraham thus fulfills the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”:1 “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”2 Because he was “strong in his faith”, Abraham became the “father of all who believe”.3
CCC 288 Thus the revelation of creation is inseparable from the revelation and forging of the covenant of the one God with his People. Creation is revealed as the first step towards this covenant, the first and universal witness to God’s all-powerful love.4 And so, the truth of creation is also expressed with growing vigor in the message of the prophets, the prayer of the psalms and the liturgy, and in the wisdom sayings of the Chosen People.5
CCC 343 Man is the summit of the Creator’s work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures.6
CCC 762 The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people.7 Its immediate preparation begins with Israel’s election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of All nations.8 But the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant and behaving like a prostitute. They announce a new and eternal covenant. “Christ instituted this New Covenant.”9
CCC 2571 Because Abraham believed in God and walked in his presence and in covenant with him,10 the patriarch is ready to welcome a mysterious Guest into his tent. Abraham’s remarkable hospitality at Mamre foreshadows the annunciation of the true Son of the promise.11 After that, once God had confided his plan, Abraham’s heart is attuned to his Lord’s compassion for men and he dares to intercede for them with bold confidence.12
1 Heb 11:1.
2 Rom 4:3; cf. Gen 15:6.
3 Rom 4:11, 18; 4:20; cf. Gen 15:5.
4 Cf. Gen 15:5; Jer 33:19-26.
5 Cf. Isa 44:24; Ps 104; Prov 8:22-31.
6 Cf. Gen 1-26.
7 Cf. Gen 12:2; 15:5-6.
8 Cf. Ex 19:5-6; Deut 7:6; Isa 2:2-5; Mic 4:1-4.
9 LG 9; cf. Hos 1; Isa 1:2-4; Jer 2; 31:31-34; Isa 55:3.
10 Cf. Gen 15:6; 17:1 f.
11 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38.
12 Cf. Gen 18:16-33.
The lesson we are to learn from these verses of the book of Genesis is that we should imitate the faith of Abram and trust in God’s word. He promised Abram what seemed the impossible, namely that he would have a numerous progeny even though his wife was barren. Abram trusted God’s word and God then goes on to confirm it by promising to give a large territory to those descendants yet to come. This promise is ratified with a solemn pact, as was then the custom, God pledging his word with his life, as it were.
Now Abram had a very limited knowledge of God. He had a vague idea that he was God of the whole world for he could dispose of any part of it as he wished, and also that he was interested in the welfare of all men, for he was using Abram as the means through which he would bless all nations (see Gen. 12: 1-3). He knew little more than that. Yet he believed God’s promise and continued to believe it even when its fulfillment was postponed for years.
How much greater should be our faith in God’s word, our trust in his promises? We have seen the fulfillment of his promise to Abram–we have seen the blessing that was sent to all nations. We have that blessing in the New Covenant that Christ made with us. He has not only made us his Chosen People, he has also raised us up, through his Incarnation, to the supernatural status of sons of God. It is not the land of Canaan that is promised to us but the mansions of heaven to be our home for all eternity.
But to profit by all this we have our part to play. We must not only accept the faith, and the truths which Christ has revealed to us, but we must live by these truths, and put our faith into daily practice. It is only by doing this that we can receive the promises that he has made to us. There is no sane man alive who does not want eternal happiness. There is no Christian who does not want to rise with Christ because he knows that this is the way to reach it. But not every Christian is willing to follow Christ first to Calvary. Am I following Christ to Calvary in my daily living? It is through the daily carrying of the Christian cross that an eternal crown is earned. What I do in life will determine what kind of resurrection is in store for me.
Ps 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14
The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call;
have pity on me, and answer me.
Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.
The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Your presence, O LORD, I seek.
Hide not your face from me;
do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off.
The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters,
and observe those who thus conduct themselves
according to the model you have in us.
For many, as I have often told you
and now tell you even in tears,
conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Their end is destruction.
Their God is their stomach;
their glory is in their “shame.”
Their minds are occupied with earthly things.
But our citizenship is in heaven,
and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He will change our lowly body
to conform with his glorified body
by the power that enables him also
to bring all things into subjection to himself.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
whom I love and long for, my joy and crown,
in this way stand firm in the Lord.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 556 On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus’ baptism proclaimed “the mystery of the first regeneration”, namely, our Baptism; the Transfiguration “is the sacrament of the second regeneration”: our own Resurrection.1 From now on we share in the Lord’s Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ’s glorious coming, when he “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body.”2 But it also recalls that “it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God”:3
Peter did not yet understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says: “Go down to toil on earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?”4
CCC 793 Christ unites us with his Passover: all his members must strive to resemble him, “until Christ be formed” in them.5 “For this reason we. .. are taken up into the mysteries of his life,. .. associated with his sufferings as the body with its head, suffering with him, that with him we may be glorified.”6
CCC 999 How? Christ is raised with his own body: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself”;7 but he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, “all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear,” but Christ “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body,” into a “spiritual body”:8
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel. .. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. .. The dead will be raised imperishable. .. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.9
CCC 1003 United with Christ by Baptism, believers already truly participate in the heavenly life of the risen Christ, but this life remains “hidden with Christ in God.”10 The Father has already “raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”11 Nourished with his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ. When we rise on the last day we “also will appear with him in glory.”12
CCC 2796 When the Church prays “our Father who art in heaven,” she is professing that we are the People of God, already seated “with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” and “hidden with Christ in God;”13 yet at the same time, “here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling.”14
[Christians] are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their lives on earth, but are citizens of heaven.15
8 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 801; Phil 3:21; 2 Cor 15:44.
9 1 Cor 15:35-37,42,52,53.
10 Col 3:3; cf. Phil 3:20.
11 Eph 2:6.
12 Col 3:4.
13 Eph 2:6; Col 3:3.
14 2 Cor 5:2; cf. Phil 3:20; Heb 13:14.
15 Ad Diognetum 5: PG 2, 1173.
The season of Lent, the six weeks that precede Easter, is a period which long tradition has set apart as a time to prepare for the crowning event of our salvation, the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. Christ came on earth to reveal to men by his teaching, and especially by his life, God’s infinite love for the human race. God has shown that love down through the centuries, to the Chosen People especially, but also to others. He showed it by the words sent through the prophets, and by his deeds. But it was in Christ that he gave men the full revelation of his divine love for us.
God’s plan for man in creation was to raise him up to an intimate union with the divinity. The masterpiece of creation was to become an adopted son of God, a member of the divine family. This was done in the Incarnation. The Son of God became a man, one of us, so that we, through and in him, could become sons of God. Christ, representing us, gave perfect human respect and obedience to God the Father in every action of his life. This perfect homage and obedience led him to his death on the cross: he gave him human life in fulfillment of it.
And, because he did, God raised him up again from the dead and seated him at his right hand in heaven. Christ, one of us, has the principal place in heaven next to God the Father–as God, he is equal to the Father. Ever since this plan of God’s love for us was carried out, ever since the day of Christ’s Resurrection, our home, our permanent abode, is heaven. Our time on earth is only a period of exile. It is a period in which, if we try to imitate Christ, giving true reverence and obedience to God our Father, we can secure for ourselves a place in the eternal home which he has planned for us, and which Christ has won for us.
The true Christian should be aware of what God’s love has planned for us, and of what humiliations and sufferings this loving plan caused our Savior. How could a person with such an awareness ever forget his supernatural vocation and purpose in life? There are too many who do just this, too many who attach themselves to the fleeting, passing things of this world, and neglect the everlasting possessions which are theirs for the taking.
Let us not be among their number. Let us pay heed today to St. Paul’s advice to the Philippians and strive to imitate him who was the true lover and follower of Christ. While using thankfully the gifts that God has given us in this life to help us on our journey let us never forget our journey’s end, our heritage in heaven, of which Christ our brother has made us co-heirs.
Jesus took Peter, John, and James
and went up the mountain to pray.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance
and his clothing became dazzling white.
And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah,
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep,
but becoming fully awake,
they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus,
“Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But he did not know what he was saying.
While he was still speaking,
a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
CCC 516Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”1 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. .. among us”.2
CCC 554From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. .. and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”3 Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he.4 In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus’ Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain,5 before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus’ face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking “of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem”.6 A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”7
CCC 556 On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus’ baptism proclaimed “the mystery of the first regeneration”, namely, our Baptism; the Transfiguration “is the sacrament of the second regeneration”: our own Resurrection.8 From now on we share in the Lord’s Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ’s glorious coming, when he “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body.”9 But it also recalls that “it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God”:10
Peter did not yet understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says: “Go down to toil on earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?”11
CCC 557“When the days drew near for him to be taken up [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem.”12 By this decision he indicated that he was going up to Jerusalem prepared to die there. Three times he had announced his Passion and Resurrection; now, heading toward Jerusalem, Jesus says: “It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”13
CCC 659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”14 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.15 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.16 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.17 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.18
CCC 697 Cloud and light. These two images occur together in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. In the theophanies of the Old Testament, the cloud, now obscure, now luminous, reveals the living and saving God, while veiling the transcendence of his glory – with Moses on Mount Sinai,19 at the tent of meeting,20 and during the wandering in the desert,21 and with Solomon at the dedication of the Temple.22 In the Holy Spirit, Christ fulfills these figures. The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and “overshadows” her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus.23 On the mountain of Transfiguration, the Spirit in the “cloud came and overshadowed” Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and “a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’”24 Finally, the cloud took Jesus out of the sight of the disciples on the day of his ascension and will reveal him as Son of man in glory on the day of his final coming.25
CCC 1151 Signs taken up by Christ. In his preaching the Lord Jesus often makes use of the signs of creation to make known the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.26 He performs healings and illustrates his preaching with physical signs or symbolic gestures.27 He gives new meaning to the deeds and signs of the Old Covenant, above all to the Exodus and the Passover,28 for he himself is the meaning of all these signs.
CCC 2583 After Elijah had learned mercy during his retreat at the Wadi Cherith, he teaches the widow of Zarephath to believe in The Word of God and confirms her faith by his urgent prayer: God brings the widow’s child back to life.29
The sacrifice on Mount Carmel is a decisive test for the faith of the People of God. In response to Elijah’s plea, “Answer me, O LORD, answer me,” the Lord’s fire consumes the holocaust, at the time of the evening oblation. The Eastern liturgies repeat Elijah’s plea in the Eucharistic epiclesis.
Finally, taking the desert road that leads to the place where the living and true God reveals himself to his people, Elijah, like Moses before him, hides “in a cleft of he rock” until the mysterious presence of God has passed by.30 But only on the mountain of the Transfiguration will Moses and Elijah behold the unveiled face of him whom they sought; “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God [shines] in the face of Christ,” crucified and risen.31
CCC 2600 The Gospel according to St. Luke emphasizes the action of the Holy Spirit and the meaning of prayer in Christ’s ministry. Jesus prays before the decisive moments of his mission: before his Father’s witness to him during his baptism and Transfiguration, and before his own fulfillment of the Father’s plan of love by his Passion.32 He also prays before the decisive moments involving the mission of his apostles: at his election and call of the Twelve, before Peter’s confession of him as “the Christ of God,” and again that the faith of the chief of the Apostles may not fail when tempted.33 Jesus’ prayer before the events of salvation that the Father has asked him to fulfill is a humble and trusting commitment of his human will to the loving will of the Father.
It was out of the abundance of his divine love that God gave a glimpse of the future glory of Christ in his risen humanity to the three disciples on that memorable occasion. And with Christ he showed two others of his faithful servants also in glory. He understood the human weakness of the disciples, and foresaw the shock to their faith which the sad scenes of the passion and crucifixion of their beloved Master would be some weeks later. So, to strengthen and forearm them for that sad trial, he gave them a glimpse of the future glory which was to be theirs, too, if they persevered.
It is for this same reason that this all-important event in the life of Christ and of his Apostles has been preserved for us in the Gospels and is put before us today.
Like the Apostles, we, too, believe firmly in God. We, too, are convinced that Christ was sent by God to bring us to heaven. We now have much more convincing proof that Christ was not only the Messiah, an envoy of God, but the very Son of God–something the Apostles did not then understand. But we are still very much like them in our human weakness, and in our half-hearted acceptance of God’s purpose for and promises to us.
The Apostles had to face the awful test to their faith and trust in God, which the passion and crucifixion of Christ was for them. We now accept with gratitude and realize that Christ “had to suffer and thus enter into his glory.” We even understand that the very purpose of Christ’s passion was that, in spite of our mortality and weakness, we also might enter into eternal glory through his suffering, on condition that we remain true to our faith.
In our moments of cool, calm reasoning we can see clearly how good God has been to us, how wonderful his love which has arranged for us an eternity of happiness, the perfect fulfillment of every rational human desire. We can also see how little God asks of us during our few short years here, in return for the everlasting happy home he has prepared for us.
But unfortunately we have many moments in life in which cool, calm reasoning does not prevail. We have moments when our vices and not our virtues take charge, moments when we are prepared to sell our eternal heritage in exchange for a mess of earthly pottage. Some of us may already have bartered our heavenly home for some temporal gain or pleasure–but while there is life there is hope. We can still put things right with God.
“Lord, it is good for us to be here,” it is wonderful to be adopted sons of God on the road back to our Father. It is wonderful to be assured that in death this body of ours with its pains and aches, its attraction to earthly things and worse still its propensity to sin, will give place to a glorified body. This glorified body will be free from all pain and corruption and will possess all the human spiritual gifts of intelligence and will to so much greater a degree as will enable us to appreciate and enjoy the eternal happiness in store for us.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.
The Chair of St. Peter
Peter expressed in the first place, in the name of the apostles, the profession of faith: “You are the Christ. The Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). This is the task of all the successors of Peter: to be the leader in the profession of faith in Christ, the Son of the living god. The chair of Rome is, first of all, the chair of this creed. From the loftiness of this chair the Bishop of Rome is obliged to repeat constantly “Dominus Iesus.” “Jesus is Lord,” as Paul wrote in his Letters to the Romans (10: 9), and to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12: 3). To the Corinthians he said, with particular emphasis: “For although there may be so-called gods in heaven and on earth… yet for us there is one God, the Father… and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (! Cor 8:5). The chair of Peter obliges its incumbents to say, as Peter did at a moment of crisis of the disciples, when many wished to go away: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; (Jn 6: 68 and following). Whoever sits on the chair of Peter must remember the words that the Lord said to Simon Peter at the Last Supper: “And when you have returned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22: 32). The holder of the Petrine ministry must be conscious of being a frail and weak man, as his own strength is frail and weak, constantly needing purification and conversion. But he can also be conscious that from the Lord he receives strength to confirm his brethren in the faith and to keep them united in the confession of Christ, crucified and risen.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
God, our Father, in the transfigured glory of Christ your Son, you strengthen our faith by confirming the witness of your prophets and by showing to us the splendor of your beloved Son, help us to become heirs to the eternal life with Him, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Let Us Bless The Lord - A weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.