Pastor’s Letter August 6, 2017: The Transfiguration and Transformation
August 6th is the Feast of the Transfiguration. This year the Church has the joy of celebrating this Feast on a Sunday. This mystery of the Transfiguration is included in the new mysteries of the Rosary that St. John Paul has given us in the Mysteries of Light (the Luminous Mysteries) which put an appropriate focus on Our Lord’s public ministry, those three years he spent with his disciples teaching and preaching. The event of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor happens very close to the end of Our Lord’s public ministry before the Last Supper and his death on the cross.
The three closest disciples, Peter, James and John, were able to see beyond the limitations of physical vision and see the truth of Jesus Christ, which is much more than meets the eye. Often we think we have come to the end of our knowledge and relationship with Jesus, as I imagine the disciples were beginning to think after three years with Jesus. Like, “He’s starting to repeat himself”, or “We’ve heard that before.” What this mystery of the Transfiguration teaches us is that there is much more to Jesus than meets the eye and also much more to our participation in the mystery. With Jesus there is always the invitation to go deeper and live more fully.
Transfiguration is a way of hoping. The door is not closed nor the end reached. There is more journeying and discovery to do. Not just about Jesus but ourselves vis à vis Jesus. The Transfiguration was a kind of mirror to the disciples: this is what you can and will become in me. Often statements are made about the way we are, usually to justify a particular behavior, like “That’s just the way I am.” But is that the way we really should be, which is like saying, “This far and no further” or “I’m not going to change.”
Jesus has a whole different approach to who we “are” or what we think we “identify” with. It is called conversion. Conversion is at the heart of the Gospel. It means we can always become something better. And it is not according to our own image, the world’s image or anyone else’s expectations, but according to the image of Christ. And here we see the true meaning of the Transfiguration; it is really about us and what we can become.
Jesus wants to make us beautiful and glorious, indeed a “new creation”. He does this by his tremendous love and mercy which begins small in us like the mustard seed and grows. Before Christ’s gaze we are definitively loved, all falsehood and masks melt away. This encounter with Christ transforms and frees us, heals us, enabling us to become totally ourselves. Jesus gives us our true “identity”.
Beholding beauty is an act of transformation itself. Beholding the beauty contained in Christ is an act of transformation by which we are able to respond to God’s beauty in grace, and gradually become like God, becoming more able to see beauty as we become more beautiful ourselves. As Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) This is the mystery of the Transfiguration, a mystery of what we are called to become, a mystery of hope and beauty.